Monday, March 31, 2008

A crime wave???

Crime wave forces cancellation of Festival
of India Trade Fair

ROSE HALL TOWN, CORENTYNE - The Berbice leg of the Festival of India Trade Fair has been called off for security reasons. The event was billed for the end of April at the Albion Sports Complex.

President of the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, Bhigroog Poonai, explained that the organisers, during a meeting with security forces in Georgetown, were advised not to go ahead with the event in the light of what some refer to as a crime wave.

Mr. Poonai, however, pointed out that the Chamber is satisfied with the job being done by ranks in Division ‘B’ of the Guyana Police Force in keeping crime on the down low. He is also of the view that Berbice is not under any threat.

The Chamber began preparations to host the event in early August and a substantial amount of cash was already collected from the patrons.

Funds that would have been secured from the Festival of India Trade Fair would have been used to help construct the fire station at Rose Hall Town.

The Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce is now directing its attention to the annual Berbice Expo and Trade Fair scheduled for July at the Albion Sports Complex.

Rohee's imagination

"MINISTER of Home Affairs Clement Rohee and executive member of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic ) PPP/C) said the fight against the pernicious and hostile propaganda being peddled by certain anti-PPP elements, politicians, social activists and columnists who continue to push the myth that Afro-Guyanese are being ‘marginalised’ and ‘discriminated’ against."

* Not only are they bent on marginalisation, but on suppressing the truth. Guyana 360 will not end its fight for a free and fair Guyana in this clouded state of democracy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nandlall plays the President's fiddle

In all the dictatorship moves by this Government, this one takes the cake. President Bharrat Jagdeo sent Anil Nandllall as an emissary to meet with Oliver Hinckson at the Camp Street prison. This is unheard of in any democracy and shows clearly that Hinckson, who is awaiting another court hearing, is a political prisoner of the state. The police, which is an extension of the state governed by the PPP/C, has deliberately delayed the hearing of Hinckson's case because the file was still with the Acting DPP.

In one twisted turn of events, on Mash day, the President sent his chief legal henchman to negotiate a truce with Hinckson, who is being held on trumped up charges because he expressed views on the two horrific shootings.

Clearly, the President wants a personal showdown with Hinckson. It was the President who figured Hinckson in the killings without the police having the requisite evidence.

And it was the President who unleashed his public relations henchman, Robert Persaud (MBA) to ridicule Corbin weeks before the last elections after a published photo of Corbin and Hinckson shaking hands.

We here at Guyana360 look forward to hearing through the media what was the offer made by the President through Nandlall.

Breaking news: PPP Dictatorship and lies continues

Guyana360@ 5 PM: Hot off the press and flowing from today's Parliamentary debate where Dr. Ashni Singh and the Speaker exchanged a few words, the (almost dead) PNCR has once again brought to the fore evidence of PPP Dictatorship and further the fact that the PPP/C under President Jagdeo cannot be trusted.

Press Release

The Peoples National Congress Reform reaffirms its commitment to the agreements of the joint stakeholders' forum and will work assiduously to ensure their implementation, particularly those, which fall within its own capacity.
The PPP/C Government, under the name of the Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, presented a Motion to Parliament without any prior consultation with the Parliamentary Opposition Parties, which merely sought to acknowledge the decisions of that stakeholder forum and Ms. Gail Texiera subsequently wrote inviting the opposition parties to make any proposed amendments. The Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties having discussed the matter submitted their proposals for amendments. Those amendments, which are attached, sought to give life and meaning to the decisions of the stakeholder’s forum.
Regrettably, the rejection by the Government of some of the most important proposals clearly demonstrated an absence of their commitment to engage in serious implementation and suggested that the tabling of the Motion was motivated merely by public relations considerations.
For example, the rejection of the inclusion of any reference to Article 13 of the Constitution, an important concern of many stakeholders during the consultations, was quite surprising and raises questions as to whether the Government was serious about giving reality to this Article of the Constitution. The Government also rejected any reference to equitable access to parliamentary parties to the state media, which was a serious matter of concern raised by the Parliamentary Opposition Parties when they met President Jagdeo and was a matter agreed upon in the signed Communiqué signed by President Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Robert Corbin since May 6, 2003. The Government also rejected any reference to the enactment of Freedom of Information legislation and to the removal of state monopoly on radio.
These actions by the Government creates many doubts in the minds of the Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties about the Government’s seriousness in implementing the recommendations of the stakeholders’ forum, the implementation of which do not require a Motion to be passed in Parliament but actual work in a spirit of compromise to ensure progress.
The doubts of the PNCR and the other Opposition Parties are founded upon historical experience in which undertakings arrived at by the Government have been honoured in the breach. For example, there have been agreements that the joint services will conduct their operations professionally and within the confines of the law and with respect for constitutional rights of citizens. The recent actions of the security services clearly demonstrate a lack of willingness on the part of the Government to uphold the commitments to professionalism and respect for constitutional rights.
Only yesterday, Wednesday, March 26th, in Parliament, the Government rejected three reasonable Motions calling respectively for an investigation into the operations of GPL, the establishment of a permanent Law Reform Commission and the setting up of an aggregate limit of $10M on the amount of debt the Government may forgive in any year without approval of the National Assembly.
In view of the foregoing, the PNCR is of the view that it could not reasonably participate in another parliamentary charade merely intended for propaganda purposes while the commitment for transparency, accountability and serious pursuits of undertakings are completely ignored by the Government.
We therefore call on the Government to honour their commitments made at the stakeholder forum and stand prepared to respond to any serious initiative in this direction.

Rohee accepts existance of Phantom gangs

The truth is beginning to reveal its self. None other than the Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee has accepted that Phantom Gangs previously roamed the streets of Guyana. The article below was ripped from SN.

Rohee: No credible info on any resurfacing of phantoms
-slams Stabroek News story

Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee says there is no credible information that there has been any re-emerging of the phantom gangs in Guyana.

In a release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) yesterday, he criticized a report in Tuesday's edition of Stabroek News which asked whether the 'phantom' death squad had come out of retirement.

Rohee told GINA that the article's intent is "clearly to mislead readers and must be seen as an unfortunate development in the media fraternity since the role of the media is to provide information and not misinformation".

The minister added "If the Stabroek News has information that is indeed so, then they must hand this information to the police to alleviate speculations to a headline story in a newspaper that claims to have credibility… We don't have any information of any credible nature that there is any re-emerging of phantom gangs in Guyana".

The article in question had pointed to the recent killings of Marcyn King, sister of wanted man Rondell Rawlins and George Barton and similarities with killings during the period when the dead squads were thought to be in business.

In a comment, Stabroek News Editor Anand Persaud said the raising of the question of the return of the phantom squad was legitimate considering the manner in which the two killings had occurred. He also noted that they came not long after the Bartica and Lusignan massacres believed to have been executed by a gang from the East Coast. In 2002/3, the death squads surfaced after the murderous violence unleashed by the gang of prison escapees, Persaud said.

Noting that Minister Rohee appeared in the GINA release to have accepted that the phantom squads had operated previously, Persaud said it was time that the PPP/C government lives up to its commitment to conduct a thorough probe of the death squad phenomenon and the East Coast violence of 2002-3 in particular. Persaud said it was unbelievable that in a democracy the death squad scourge has gone uninvestigated by the state. He said it was even more important that it be done considering the allegation that at least one senior government functionary at the time had played a major role in the death squad and that a key witness and self-proclaimed death squad informant was murdered.

Persaud also said that the poor record of the police in solving cases like the King and Barton murders creates fertile conditions for the activities of the death squads and also generates fear in the public. He said the Joint Services have failed to properly investigate dozens of execution-style killings since 2002 and the government has appeared unwilling to take the necessary steps to reverse this.

Judge for yourself

Guyana 360: Below are two separate articles carried in today's KN, but you be the judge (no pun intended) for yourself.

Businessman refused bail on carnal
knowledge charge

A 25-year-old businessman was yesterday refused bail by Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson-Ogle when he appeared in court charged indictably with carnal knowledge.
It was alleged that the accused, Gregory Mattelhozer, had carnal knowledge of a 13-year-old girl on December 18, last, at Berbice.
Mattelhozer of 43 Stanleytown, New Amsterdam, Berbice, was represented by Attorney-at-Law Nigel Anthony who said that his client is the owner of a supermarket at Stanleytown.
He added that Mattelhozer has had no previous brushes with the law and since his arrest has cooperated fully with the police.
According to Anthony, the virtual complainant’s mother approached him seeking to settle the matter before it reached the attention of the court.
The prosecutor opposed bail on the ground of the serious nature of the offence. He added that the incident has allegedly occurred on more than one occasions.
The lawyer then responded by saying that Mattelhozer has no contact with the child and if that is the reason for refusal of bail, that is unfortunate.
Bail was refused and Mattelhozer’s next court appearance was fixed for April 11.

Another carnal accused
granted bail

Magistrate Allan Wilson granted bail in the sum of $75,000 to 25-year-old Satnarine Deonarine, who is accused of having carnal knowledge of a girl under 15 years.
Deonarine, called Kishan, a labourer of Golden Fleece, Essequibo Coast, was not required to plea to the indictable charge when he appeared at the Anna Regina Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Counsel Dindyal who represented the defendant in his application for bail stated that his client was not a flight risk and was gainfully employed as a labourer.
However, Magistrate Wilson said that the offence is very prevalent and ways must be implemented in order to bring such an offence to an end. And having granted bail, he told the defendant that his passport or any other travel documents must be immediately confiscated, and that he must report to the Anna Regina Police Station twice weekly, up until his preliminary hearing.
It is alleged that on October 6, 2007 at Suddie, Deonarine, who is friends with the minor’s sister, was visiting their house where he spoke with the virtual complainant. Later in the day both the minor and the defendant left on a bicycle for a house at Suddie Village where the accused allegedly had sex with her. The defendant will have to return to Court on April 21.

Guyana Forests devlopment

By Daniel Howden

A deal has been agreed that will place a financial value on rainforests – paying, for the first time, for their upkeep as "utilities" that provide vital services such as rainfall generation, carbon storage and climate regulation.

The agreement, to be announced tomorrow in New York, will secure the future of one million acres of pristine rainforest in Guyana, the first move of its kind, and will open the way for financial markets to play a key role in safeguarding the fate of the world's forests.

The initiative follows Guyana's extraordinary offer, revealed in The Independent in November, to place its entire standing forest under the protection of a British-led international body in return for development aid.

Hylton Murray-Philipson, director of the London-based financiers Canopy Capital, who sealed the deal with the Iwokrama rainforest, said: "How can it be that Google's services are worth billions but those from all the world's rainforests amount to nothing?" The past year has been a pivotal one for the fast- disappearing tropical forests that form a cooling band around the equator because the world has recognised deforestation as the second leading cause of CO2 emissions. Leaders at the UN climate summit in Bali in December agreed to include efforts to halt the destruction of forests in a new global deal to save the world from runaway climate change.

"As atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide rise, emissions will carry an ever-mounting cost and conservation will acquire real value. The investment community is beginning to wake up to this," Mr Murray-Philipson added.

Guyana, sandwiched between the Latin American giants Venezuela and Brazil, is home to fewer than amillion people but 80 per cent of its land is covered by an intact rainforest larger than England. The Guiana Shield is one of only four intact rainforests left on the planet and at its heart lies the Iwokrama reserve, gifted to the Commonwealth in 1989 as a laboratory for pioneering conservation projects.

Iwokrama, which means "place of refuge" in the Makushi language, is home to some of the world's most endangered species including jaguar, giant river otter, anaconda and giant anteater.

Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo, a former economist, has appealed for state and private sector help for the country to avoid succumbing to the rampant deforestation currently blighting Brazil and Indonesia, in an effort to raise living standards in one of Latin America's poorest countries.

"Forests do much more for us than just store carbon ... This first significant step is in keeping with President Jagdeo's visionary approach to safeguarding all the forests of Guyana," said Iwokrama's chairman, Edward Glover.

The deal, drawn up by the international firm Stephenson Harwood, is the first serious attempt to pay for the ecosystem services provided by rainforests.

"We should move beyond emissions-based trading to measure and place a value on all the services they provide," said Mr Glover.

In addition to providing shelter to half the world's terrestrial species and one billion of the earth's poorest people, forests such as Iwokrama act as pumps, drawing water from the Atlantic Ocean inland to the Amazon and Guiana Shield where they help to seed clouds and deliver moisture over vast distances.

The Amazon generates the rain that falls on the vast soya estates of Sao Paulo, helping to make Brazil the second biggest agricultural exporter in the world.

Guyana's attempt to secure its entire standing forest has received the backing of the British environment minister Phil Woolas and Downing Street has told The Independent that it is "considering the offer". President Jagdeo met with Gordon Brown on the sidelines of a recent Commonwealth Summit in Uganda where they discussed the proposal. The UN road map to a deal to replace the Kyoto protocols foresees payments from wealthy climate-polluting nations to developing countries to compensate for potential income lost through avoiding deforestation. But there are fears that this formula may simply displace the demand for timber and cheap agricultural land.

Andrew Mitchell, head of the Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of rainforest scientists, said: "The decision on forests at December's conference in Bali is a major step in tackling climate change but it fails to reward countries such as Guyana that aren't cutting down their forests."

Cracking under pressure

Here we see the Government cracking under the pressure of Uncle Sam and the Government now trying to salvage some pride after the President had huffed and puffed that it was the US responsibility to stop the flow of narcotics to its borders. This is an interesting development after initial talks broke off when the setting up of a permanent DEA office was first proposed.

Government's spokesman, Dr. Roger Luncheon had said a few years ago that the two governments could not agree on a suitable plot of land. At that time Roger Khan and his band of merry men had clutched the government under his wings and the Government wanted to maintain its warmth under the Khan era. Perhaps there is a silver lining behind all this dark cloud, but the shameful fact remains that the US and its allies have lost faith and trust in the present administration.

The US has said there are seeking about a dozen Guyanese in relation to drug related charges, but they have stopped short of releasing the names of those persons to Guyanese authorities. In fact the DEA has adopted a tactical maneuver of waiting for those wanted to step on international flights out of Guyana and capturing them at regional ports. This clearly demonstrates a lack of confidence in Guyana.

It was obvious then that the US was concerned about the safety of its staff, but the Guyana Government was not prepared to bend over and give the US what it wanted. Considerable time has elapsed and maybe the DEA office would have already been set up, now we are back to stage one of negotiating for a permanent office.

US law enforcement investigates threats by Guyanese

The The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) has written to US federal law enforcement officials about a pattern of threats to its president, Rickford Burke, including numerous alleged death threats, by supporters of Guyana's ruling People's Progressive Party (PPP). CGID has been critical of the Jagdeo administration in Guyana.

A CGID statement issued on Tuesday fingered PPP advisor, attorney-at-law, Randy Depoo, a resident of Trinidad and Tobago. Depoo reportedly once worked for the US State Department.

On December 11, 2007, Depoo is alleged to have sent an email to Burke's office that read "I am in Guyana armed, ready … and waiting for the likes of Rickford Burke." The email was reportedly sent in response to an article Burke wrote, titled "Torture, bloodshed and ethnic exclusion in Guyana."

CGID says it has notified the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Institute also placed the spotlight on a website managed by Mohammed A. O. Ishmael, the son of PPP official and Guyana's ambassador to Venezuela, Odeen Ishmael. CGID observed that it had previously received dozens of complaints about hate and bigotry churned out by the site but became aware of its advocacy through a police official.

CGID said that on February 22, 2008, at 09:07 am, a member of the site's political discussion forum, who goes by the alias "The Blade Runner," posted a coded message calling for Burke to be killed after he wrote to the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago urging that he seeks an assurance that equipment T&T was sending to Guyana to help fight crime, would not be surreptitiously passed to death squads and drug lords, ostensibly aligned to the government, as has happened in the past.

Law enforcement authorities were informed of the post and notified Burke. A similar post appeared in 2005, stating "Its time to give Burke the silver bullet" after the Institute met and briefed officials of the US State Department on then Minister of National Security, Ronald Gajraj's alleged involvement in a death squad. He was later forced to resign but was never prosecuted.

CGID also referred to Dr Tara Singh of the Indian Caribbean Council, who it claimed is a proponent of an agenda of hate and contended that "Tara Singh has engaged in hate speech and attempts at intimidation. He appears to be a sannyasin fundamentalist who openly spews Indian supremacy, a manifestation of which is his place in the leadership of a fundamentalist group."

"This brand of fundamentalism, which has become ensconced in the governance of Guyana, converges into the mold of the wider movement of international fundamentalists that requires monitoring by law enforcement," CGID said.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Barack Obama’s Speech on Race (Part I)

The following is the text as prepared for delivery of Senator Barack Obama’s speech on race in Philadelphia, as provided by his presidential campaign.

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Barack Obama’s Speech on Race (Part II)

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

Barack Obama’s Speech on Race (Part III)

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who's been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

Barack Obama’s Speech on Race (Part IV)

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

Barack Obama’s Speech on Race (Part VI)

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Barack Obama’s Speech on Race (Part V)

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Gayle confident

Gayle confident ahead of Sri Lanka series

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) - West Indies captain, Chris Gayle, is confident that his side can conquer Sri Lanka in the 2008 Digicel Home Series that bowls off this weekend.

Speaking after the team arrived in Guyana on Tuesday night, Gayle said his players were aware of the task and though they had respect for the visitors, the aim was to win the series of two Tests and three One-Day Internationals.

After a brief presentation from the series sponsors, Digicel, Gayle told reporters he was pleased with the team's balance and believed they had the ability to defeat the tourists.

"What we have is a very balanced team and the expectations are very high. We're looking forward to this series in a big way. We believe we can match up against the Sri Lankans and come out on top.

"Sri Lanka has a very good team and... an experienced bowling unit and very good batsmen, but we believe in our ability. We will plan well and go out there and attack," Gayle added.

The captain said with several new faces in the team it presented the opportunity for players to showcase their skills on the international stage.

He was referring to left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, off-spinner Amit Jaggernauth, left-handed opening batsman Sewnarine Chattergoon and all-rounder Ryan Hinds, who is making a return to the team.
Hinds last represented the West Indies in 2005.

"This is a big series and a big opportunity for players to stamp their authority," Gayle declared.

"The players have been doing well in the Carib Beer Series and this is a chance to transfer that form into the Test match arena. We support them and welcome them to the team unit," added the big 28-year-old left-handed opening batsman.
At the team meeting yesterday morning, team manager Omar Khan and head coach John Dyson both expressed their expectations and outlined that this tour signalled a new era in West Indies cricket now that there is a permanent management team in place.

Khan said he was looking forward to working with the squad, with everyone gelling together as a unit.

The first Digicel Test match bowls off on Saturday at the National Stadium, Providence.

The West Indies will have training sessions this morning at Providence and tomorrow morning at the same venue.

Series schedule
March 22-26: 1st Digicel Test - National Stadium, Providence, Guyana
March 29-31 Sri Lanka v West Indies "A" Team - Shaw Park, Tobago
April 3-7: 2nd Digicel Test - Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad
April 10: 1st Digicel One-Day International - Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad
April 12: 2nd Digicel One-Day International - Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad
April 15: 3rd Digicel One-Day International - Beausejour Stadium, St Lucia (day/night)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Image of the day (ripped from Providence Stadium blog)

The real McCoy

"McCoy was adamant that the decision to withdraw the ads from the Stabroek News was a decision taken by Cabinet for all government advertisements to be placed in two dailies for economic reasons and the RDCs could not supersede Cabinet's authority since the RDC was created as an extension of Cabinet.

Up to that point, the government's position was that the cut-off of ads to SN was decided at the level of GINA. Hours after the press briefing, McCoy telephoned Stabroek News to say that he had erred at the press briefing when he said that the decision to withdraw the ads was taken by Cabinet. Instead he said it was a GINA decision."

Guyana360: We knew sooner rather than later the truth will be revealed about the decision to punish the leading "Independent" daily newspaper, by withdrawing Government advertisement from the pages of truth, fairness and balance. Wasn't he the same guy that put up billboards all over the place congratulating the President and identified him as the man that won the maritime boundary award against Suriname?

Regional security meeting in most insured of countries

Caribbean top cops meet in Guyana for crime meeting

Police Commissioners from across the Caribbean are in Guyana this week to discuss the vexing issue of crime.

Recommendation will be delivered to CARICOM Heads at their crime summit in Trinidad and Tobago next month.

Guyana's President Bharat Jagdeo says he looks forward to hearing from the police chiefs on the way forward.

"So far a lot of our efforts have focused on preparation of papers and strategies and we now need to become more practical and hands on," said Mr. Jagdeo.

"We need to find out from our individual police forces around the region, what in practical terms they need to improve the arsenal they have at their disposal to fight the criminals," he continued.

Suriname/Venezuela gas pipeline note

Venezuela proposes gas pipeline to Suriname

By Ivan Cairo
Caribbean Net News Suriname Correspondent

PARAMARIBO, Suriname: The government of Venezuela has proposed the construction of a gas pipeline from Venezuela to Suriname, government officials here confirmed Tuesday. The pipeline is projected to run over the sea bed with a bifurcation to Guyana.

Speaking to local journalists, Energy Minister, Gregory Rusland, said that Venezuela president Hugo Chavez made the proposal recently after the Suriname government informed Caracas of its plans to increase energy production in the country.

Currently experts of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy here and officials from state-owned oil company Staatsolie are exploring whether this project is economically feasible. Experts from Venezuela are also collecting more data on the project.

During the next PetroCaribe Summit later this year the Venezolan government will further explain the proposal.

“We will examine the possible benefits this proposal could have for the economic development of Suriname,” said minister Rusland, adding that the country is currently implementing its own exploration activities offshore and if “lucky we won’t need a gas pipeline from another country”.

The feasibility study to establish the pipeline will cost some US$3 million. Asked whether Suriname will actively participate in Caracas’ PetroCaribe oil initiative, the government minister noted that this is highly unlikely. Last week, President Ronald Venetiaan already hinted at Suriname’s opting out of the deal with Venezuela.

Rusland argued that importing heavy fuel from Venezuela would be detrimental to state-owned Staatsolie, which is already producing heavy fuel for local industries, while most of the production is being exported.

“We have all the time maintained that Suriname is in a slightly different position than several other Caricom nations since we have our own local oil industry. Since costs in the energy sector worldwide are very high and increasing steadily, we have to be very cautious not to get trapped in an uncontrollable situation, because before you know it you have an enormous energy bill to pay to another country.” he further argued.

Also logistics issues played a significant role in the government’s decision not to pursue the PetroCaribe initiative further.

Meanwhile, Suriname is also looking to other options for its energy needs. Intentions to build a hydro-powerhouse in West-Suriname are still intact, while the government is also exploring ways to establish projects in the field of renewable energies.

Agriculture Minister Kermechend Raghoebarsing confirmed that a US company is interested in establishing a bio-fuel plant here with sugar cane as resource. En marge of the recently held Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC-2008) in the US, the minister met with delegates of the Inter-American Development Bank to discuss possible assistance in financing renewable energy projects in Suriname.

For the near future follow-up discussions with the IDB on this issue are being planned, Raghoebarsing told reporters.

An economic insight

Caribbean Buffeted by Global Price Spikes

By Bert Wilkinson

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mar 19 (IPS) -

As the single parent of a five-year-old boy, Sonita Balkaran can barely make ends meet these days. A clothing vendor in one of this city's five municipal markets, Balkarran has watched in horror the steady decline of her living standard, estimating that her spending power has shrunk by about 50 percent in the last year.

"The price of anything you can think about has gone up," she said one very hot afternoon this week. "What hurts is that your salary is not going up and prices are not moving up by a few points. They are jumping up. Ask anyone," she added, touching on a subject that has brought political discomfort to some governments and misery for ordinary Caribbean people in the last year.

Early in March, Caribbean Community leaders flew to the Bahamas for their annual mid-term summit, with the rising cost of living as a main agenda item of the two-day session. The bloc represents a combined population of some 15 million people.

When it was all over, they announced a plan to suspend the common external tariff (CET) applied to some imported goods across the 12-nation trade bloc and to drastically reduce the rates on others for a period of up to two years.

It has become increasingly clear that the era of cheap food and raw materials is over. In the past year, global fuel prices have doubled, in turn pushing up the cost of key commodities like wheat, corn and barley. Food prices have also been squeezed by the expanding use of grains for biofuels.

"As net importers, the Caribbean countries are particularly vulnerable to these international price hikes," noted Antigua and Barbuda's finance ministry this week. "While our countries may seek to mitigate the impact... there are very few policy options available to the governments of small developing countries that would eliminate or significantly reduce the impact of external shocks on the domestic economy."

Officials say the government will subsidise gas and diesel prices to keep them unchanged, but concede that "with the price oil climbing to over 100 dollars per barrel [of oil], this policy is hardly sustainable."

"The days of cheap oil are gone," Trinidad's Patrick Manning agreed at the Caricom summit. "We need hemispheric collaboration to face this challenge, which increases with urgency with every passing day."

Manning was one of the leaders who had attended a special December summit in Guyana devoted to only two issues -- a new trade and aid pact with the European Union, and rising living costs in the Caribbean.

Since then, trade ministers have met at least three times in special session to address the problem, passing their recommendations on to the trade bloc's special ministerial council and then to leaders who signed off on the waiver of import duties earlier this month.

Items now attracting zero import duties are cheese, cooking oil, breakfast cereal, baby formula and milk powder. Infant juices get a waiver for six months. Others like milk, chicken, beef, lamb, onions, oatmeal, beans, potatoes and some household items like ceramic products will also get special treatment. The CET on these items will be no more than five percent, down from 30 percent.

"The CET is the only instrument available for intervention at the regional level to address the issue of the rising cost of living," the leaders said in a statement after the Bahamas summit.

Countries like Barbados and Trinidad, net importers of many food items, have found it harder to cope than others. Prices for some items in Barbados have risen by at least 30 percent. The governing Democratic Labor Party used the cost of living issue to great effect on the campaign trail leading up to general elections in January, which it won by a landslide.

In Grenada, a very nervous Prime Minister Keith Mitchell sought a record fourth term this year, and pushed leaders into flying to Guyana in December to discuss the issue, as the steep spikes in cost of living became impossible to ignore.

Further north in Antigua, the finance and economy ministry called a special public forum in the capital this week to explain that there is little governments could do to address the issue.

The forum came in the midst of a raging debate involving Antigua and other small Eastern Caribbean states about the price of flour and what the increases have done to the food basket. Governments have asked the trade bloc to relax rules governing the importation of flour from outside the bloc even as traditional suppliers say they have enough on hand to meet demands.

Some have suggested easing restrictions on trade with South American countries like Brazil and Colombia, which offer lower prices on food goods than the United States, one of the Caribbean's biggest partners.

Governments in Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad say the most sustainable answer to the crisis is to increase agricultural production in the region.

Guyana, easily the largest Community member with more than 133,000 square kilometres and a population of only 730,000, has virtually been begging farmers and investors in the region to come and develop mega food farms. Trinidad has sent investors, and the previous Barbados government had talked about accepting an offer of five dollars per acre, per year to lease farmland in Guyana, the same price locals pay.

Next month, Guyana will host an agricultural investors' forum following up on a special leaders' summit on agriculture held in Trinidad a few months back to tackle this very question, but for ordinary folks like Balkarran, no relief is on the horizon.

"My son eats a big meal in the morning and after school but I have to find snacks for him at school. That I can barely afford now. A pint of kerosene has moved from 25 cents to about a dollar. How poor people will be able to afford this I don't know," she said, keeping an eye on her clothing as passers-by merely window shopped.

Guyana has good sand

"Competition Director James Kelly explained the texture and origin of the sand to be used in the long jump activities.

He said the sand was imported from Guyana, noting that it is the best kind to use in sporting events. The competition director outlined that the selected sand will make an efficient recording of the long jump “break”."

Guyana360: Imagine St. Kitts/Nevis, which is hosting Carifta beginning tomorrow, imported sand from Guyana to fill the long jump pits in the Taiwan-funded Bird Rock Athletic Stadium. Strangely enough, Guyana has the worst sporting facilities in the region, yet we have the best sand for sport. How ironic.

Kudos to the PPP and its intention to construct a synthetic athletic track and build an Olympic-size swimming pool. All of these were promises of a bright future for sports in Guyana that were belched out by President Jagdeo before he was elected for his final term in office. And while many are happy to see him go, we would like to hold him accountable to his promises.

We have a National Director of Sports that always smells like DDL rum. He once said he loves boxing because of the rum-punches. Since the PPP/C took office, sports like many other things have fallen from grace.

The agenda of divide and rule adopted in the political spectrum is perpetuated in sport. For example, the National Sports Commission recognizes the Georgetown Basketball Association, and refuses to accept the national basketball body because it is not happy with the members who were duly elected. The PPP continues to ef up the country and now with no avenue through sport, youths are finding alternatives in crime. Say no to sport, vote PPP again and again.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Police cover-up

The Guyana Police Force is responding to an article published in the Stabroek News of Wednesday March 12, 2008, under the caption “PNCR riled by ‘flimsy’ arrests”.
The article deals with a release made by the PNCR to the media which focuses, among other things, on the arrests by the police of a PNCR scrutineer and her 14-year-old sister at Ithaca, EBB, and PNCR activist Ramrattie Jagdeo of Lusignan, ECD.
The Guyana Police Force wishes to state that the arrests of these persons were done in the course of normal police duties based on reports received and were dealt with in keeping with laid down procedures.
On February 28, 2008, acting on information received that two suspicious looking men carrying duffel bags were seen entering a house at Ithaca , the police conducted a search of the house. The search was carried out in the presence of Jessica Moore called Odessa, 19 years, and her 14-year-old sister during which a sleeping cot of the type used by the military was found. Consequently, Jessica Moore and her sister were arrested and the cot seized.
The sister was released from custody the following morning while Jessica Moore was kept for further questioning during which she stated that the cot was taken to her house by an ex-member of the Guyana Defence Force.
Jessica Moore refused to give a statement and was later sent on cash bail. Investigations into this matter are continuing.
In relation to Ramrattie Jagdeo, on Thursday March 06, 2008, her neighbour reported at CID Headquarters, Eve Leary, that during November, 2007, she had told him that she will bring people from Buxton to deal with them. He further reported that on the very day he had made a report to the Vigilance Police Station for future reference and in the light of the murders at Lusignan was now informing the police at Headquarters.
The police verified that the report was made as stated and as a consequence Ramrattie Jagdeo was arrested on Friday March 07, 2008. She was questioned and gave a statement indicating that on the day in question ranks of a police mobile patrol had stopped by her home. She was later informed by one of the ranks that persons in the neighbourhood had complained about the police ranks being at her home and she had remarked, in the presence of her neighbour, that they do not want the police to come; maybe they wanted the Buxton people to come.
It should be noted that Ramrattie Jagdeo has a good relationship with police ranks on the East Coast of Demerara, particularly those at Vigilance Police Station.
Jagdeo was placed on bail and on Saturday March 08, 2008, a confrontation was held between herself and her neighbour. During that time her cell phone was found to have a photograph of two handguns. She was questioned and on the basis of her explanation her daughter and a niece were detained and questioned at CID Headquarters following which they were all released.
The Guyana Police Force pays no attention to which part of the political divide a suspect belongs. The investigation is intended to be done fairly and the Guyana Police Force goes where the evidence leads.
It considers the statement of the PNCR that “the police seem to have come under the central political direction and control of the ruling political establishment” to be most unfortunate and misleading and calculated to bring the Force into disrepute.
The actions taken against those concerned are connected to the Force’s objective of the preservation of law and order and not linked to any political direction or control.
Ivelaw Whittaker
Public Relations and Press Officer

Govt. after ex-army servicemen???

Further, the ministry quoted Article 187 (4) which states: "In the exercise of the powers conferred upon him by this article the Director shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority."

"No self-respecting human rights organization should call on a Head of State and his Government to withdraw charges that have been instituted as a result of due process and by a Constitutional Authority," the ministry chided.

"Such a call," the ministry declared, "smacks of political interference, a malpractice of the past and which the GHRA itself opposed under the previous administration."

Guyana 360:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Phantom Squad returns

"The killing of Marcyn King suggests that hired gunmen have returned to their nefarious activities. The PNCR believes that this ominous development is sufficient warning for adequate security measures to be taken, by the official law enforcement authorities."

The PNCR is very concerned about a particular development, as the security situation continues to worsen. In the 2002-2004 period of violence, the Administration clearly turned to unorthodox means of curbing the crime situation, by outsourcing the responsibility for ensuring that the rule of law obtained. Thus was the “phantom gang” or “phantom gangs” born. The consequences are well known and are still being felt to this day.

Hinckson's offer

Hinckson's offer to be a facilitator was important

Thanks to all those who agreed to meet and talk about the violence in Guyana, no matter the way they looked at it. Let me say first that I have seen the development of conflict in Guyana, have been part of it, and have carefully and I hope fairly documented the racial aspects.

In due course I shall speak directly on the destruction of Buxton-Friendship, one of the centres in Guyana of many sided human development.

For me personally Lusignan is a birth place and Buxton a school There is very little of true Buxtonian origin that I will separate myself from. I embrace its human traditions.

I see no need up to this point to withdraw the comments I have made from 2001 and especially in "The Morning After" (2005) on the disturbances staged from Buxton-Friendship and within it by the various tragic actors. .I was there for a whole year of it and marvel in silence at wise ones who claim and put forward real economic hardship as the cause.

I repeat what I said before that my differences with the majority of the African Guyanese are not racial but political.

After a series of atrocities by both official security forces and civilian vigilantes, we have come to where we are. Father Malcolm Rodrigues can in no way be seen by any sane person as an enemy of the PPP. He proposed negotiations with the civilian gunmen. Just about that time and independently of Fr Rodrigues, clearly without his knowledge, an ideal facilitator offered his services, the former military officer Mr. Oliver Hinckson, now reported to be under arrest. Without prejudice to any evidence against Mr Hinckson, I see his offer, if it is still alive as the most important thing since the start of the seven years' war.

On Sunday, March 2, 2008 the PPP held a massive event to reflect on or celebrate the life of its former Leader, and best known co-founder President Cheddi Jagan.

Within seven days of the grand consultation on crime and security and the communiqué among parties President Jagdeo pronounced on the crime-security situation.

The SN reported that Guyana's President made several declarations, some welcome and others puzzling. Among them, he declared. "the only way the recent spate of killings will come to an end is if the perpetrators are apprehended or killed." He did not state a preference. The forces have a poor record of "apprehending" as Hon Mr Rohee was careful to tell the parliament. They have many killings of known suspects to their credit. From Blackie London to Troy Dick, not one of the named wanted men has been "apprehended". I mention Blackie London because he was shot in February 1999 with his hands in surrender mode. Thus he was both apprehended (overcome) and killed. I believe that even in times of hostility between nations this would be a war crime.

The consultation had been careful to agree that the security forces should act within the law. The President should have made his declarations in that spirit.

In fairness to the record I agree with the writer who pointed out that a similar proposal that the gunmen be heard had come from Mr.Tacuma Ogunseye. These proposals that test society's hidden prejudices, and I mean class prejudice, cannot be brushed aside forever.

Security forces' vigour must not include torture and unlawful arrests and tear-smoking of people who demonstrate against the failure of the State to offer them the protection of the law. Even for the police, arresting people without warrant, at random, or because they "look suspicious" in order to get information from them by any means, is unlawful A person seen committing an offence or being about to commit an offence may be arrested without warrant.

A person may also be arrested by the police, without warrant, "on suspicion" but the constitution and the courts require that it must be "with reasonable cause."

As I close I am hit by the recent execution of a woman, described as a sister of the reputed Agricola villager said to be leading the gunmen, now dodging bulldozers in the Buxton-Friendship backlands.

Yours faithfully,

Eusi Kwayana

In British Columbia, a prayer for Guyana

Once again, our little corner of the world joined its voice with millions of people on every continent.

World Day of Prayer is an annual event celebrated by Christians all over the world simultaneously on a specific day.

One country is chosen each year to receive the prayers of the world.

“World Day of Prayer is a time when Christians come together as the whole body of Christ, united in Spirit to speak out against injustice and to spread the light of hope to struggling nations,” explains Pastor Hilary Bitten.

World Day of Prayer 2008 was dedicated to Guyana. The theme of a

The congregation was fortunate to

Heather and Gary Burns and son Angus presented a short lecture describing the conditions in the country during their time there, provided photographs and artifacts,

As refreshments were served, the multi-denominational congregation chatted, examined the Burn’s photos and artifacts, asked myriad questions and displayed an encouraging spirit of fellowship.

We demand outside help now!

CARIBBEAN: Crime Wave Spills Across Borders
By Bert Wilkinson

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mar 13 (IPS) - Two mass slayings by armed gangs in Guyana earlier this year that took 23 lives, and an overall surge in violent crime in many parts of the Caribbean, have spurred regional leaders to call a special meeting to discuss the issue next month.

A joint United Nations-World Bank study in 2007 found the Caribbean had a murder rate of 30 per 100,000 inhabitants -- four times the number for North America and 15 times that of West and Central Europe.

Next month's special leaders' summit will be held in Trinidad and Tobago, which has responsibility for crime and security in the regional trade bloc Caricom and itself racked up some 400 murders in 2007.

"The region is not losing the war on crime, nor can the region afford to lose the war on crime," insisted Trinidadian Prime Minister Patrick Manning following a Caricom summit in the Bahamas last weekend. "We are taking the discussions to a new level."

Manning said that leaders simply did not have enough time during their two-day meeting to devote to security, as they were consumed with other major issues like the cost of living increases across the trade bloc in recent months, climate change and recently concluded negotiations for a new trade and aid pact with the European Union.

However, rising rates of violence in normally quiet tourist havens like the Bahamas, which saw 75 murders in 2007 compared to 60 in 2006, have added urgency to plans for a more coordinated regional approach to tackling crime, which many ascribe to the region's role as a portal for the illegal drug industry.

The very brutal killings in Guyana, whose victims included three policemen and five children, shocked the country and prompted calls by some non-governmental organisations for international assistance in tracking down the perpetrators -- several of whom remain at large.

Guyanese vendor Lyndon Carter says he is very worried about the upsurge in violent crime, and that authorities have to recognise the transnational aspect of it.

"I have gone to Antigua and Barbados and seen some people I know are involved in crime operating there. Next few months, these same people are in Suriname or French Guiana. I believe police are missing that part of the puzzle. It is something they have to look at seriously," he told IPS.

Officials say that the geographic proximity of the Caribbean to drug-producing nations in South America as well as its mid-point status to North America makes it easy prey for powerful drug cartels, which are able to pump money into gangs and buy large amounts of weapons and ammunition.

At the same, many Caribbean nations have been criticised for police abuses and poor respect for human rights. In its annual report released this week, the U.S. State Department singled out Jamaica, Haiti and Guyana for censure, citing extrajudicial killings and kidnappings, overcrowded prisons, lengthy pretrial detention and judicial corruption.

Local security experts have advised creating rapid response teams to address regional security challenges, a proposal first raised by former Antiguan Prime Minister Lester back in 2001, but which languished when he lost his reelection bid in 2004 and governments became distracted by other political and economic issues.

The new prime minister of Barbados, David Thompson, perhaps summed up the situation by arguing that governments must come to the rescue of neighbours under siege.

"If one of our member governments is perceived as incapable of bringing criminals to justice, then what is there to stop criminals elsewhere from challenging the authority of governments? It is a matter impacting on all of us," Thompson said.

A three-page proposal discussed at the Caricom summit suggested that such a task force should be under the control of security professionals rather than governments. "It would be better to have a regional mechanism which is activated automatically and not require a political decision either at the national or regional level," the authors suggested, no doubt worried about political and national pride getting in the way of deployment.

St. Lucia and Jamaica -- which had a whopping 1,200 murders last year -- have already sought outside help, hiring experts from Britain's Scotland Yard to take up senior positions in their local police forces. The idea is to bring a fresh perspective to crime fighting and to have them undertake special investigations while regulars concentrated on day-to-day law enforcement.

Violence in schools is becoming an especially worrying problem. In Jamaica, authorities plan to swear in 300 teachers as special constables who would be empowered to make arrests.

Leaders have also considered reviving some aspects of a regional intelligence-sharing system that was successfully used during the Cricket World Cup hosted by nine nations a year ago.

Ramesh Singh, a Guyanese businessman, warned that unless the security situation improves, the region could well experience an even greater exodus of skilled workers abroad.

"People want to live in comfort, not having to look over their shoulders, not having to carry a gun to defend themselves. The middle and professional class are going to bail out if the situation is not corrected and they will go to the same Europe and the [United] States that we are trying to increase trade with," he told IPS.

Guyanese born Nigerian wins prize

Nigerian clinches Writers’ Prize again

Written by Mwenda wa Micheni

A Nigerian, Karen King-Aribisala, has won this year’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, dashing the hopes of Kenyan writer Ken Kamoche.

King-Aribisala was awarded the prize for The Hangman’s Game. This is her second Commonwealth Writers’ Prize award. In 1999 she won the Best First Book award for her collection of short stories Our Wife and Other Stories.

Kamoche had hoped to clinch the title with his collection of short stories titled A Fragile Hope. The Best First Book Award went to Imagine this , written by Sade Adeniran also from Nigeria.

The announcement of the eight Africa regional winners took place in Kampala at a festival of contemporary art and culture by artistes from the Commonwealth.

The annual Commonwealth Writers Prize aims to reward the best in Commonwealth fiction written in English.

It recognises both established and new writers.

The judging panel for the Africa region was chaired by Prof Arthur Gakwandi from Uganda.

He was assisted by Dr Olutoyin Bimpe Jegede (Nigeria) and Maureen Isaacson (South Africa). “As was the case last year, well over 50 per cent of the entries were from South Africa and Nigeria. This suggests that these two big countries each with a relatively large reading public and a substantial number of publishing houses are likely to dominate the prize for some time,” said Gakwandi .

Noting that the two winners last year were from South Africa and that this year’s winners are from Nigeria, Gakwandi said Africa was witnessing the emergence of new talent, which is fast changing the literary landscape.

“I am of course delighted and excited to win the Regional Prize for Africa...but particularly because the very notion of the Commonwealth has afforded me the opportunity to voice Africa’s pain, Africa’s joy, ” King-Aribisala said. Karen was born in Guyana, but is now based in Nigeria.

The Best First Book winner Sade Adeniran is a self-published book Imagine This. The writer described her win as “Completely unexpected…For me, to have been shortlisted was monumental in itself.”

In a unique aspect of the Prize, the two Africa regional winners will be invited to take part in a week-long programme of readings, community activities and other public events alongside the final pan-Commonwealth judging, in South Africa in May 2008.

They join other regional winners from Canada and the Caribbean, Europe and South Asia, and South East Asia and South Pacific. The week’s programme will culminate in the announcement of the overall Best Book and Best First Book winners in a special ceremony as part of the 2008 Franschhoek Literary Festival, in the Cape Winelands District, on Sunday 18 May.