Rowdy APNU supporters disrupt UG-hosted Presidential Candidates’ forum
- Granger justifies party paramountcy
- Ramotar vows to continue massive development drive envisioned by his party
- Ramjattan says Guyana being governed by a ‘sultanistic regime’
- TUF leader says opposition parties making ‘idle promises’
Written by Vanessa Narine and Johann Earle
Friday, 11 November 2011 03:42
Source - Guyana Chronicle
AFC Presidential Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan speaking to his PPP/C counterpart Donald Ramotar during the discourse forum held at the University of Guyana yesterday among the four persons vying to be this country’s next President.
THE long-awaited and much anticipated 2011 Presidential Candidates Forum kicked off yesterday at the University of Guyana (UG), in the George Walcott Lecture Theatre, where the vision, programmes and policy differences of the political parties contesting the upcoming elections were brought to the fore and open to scrutiny from students.
The event was organised by UG’s Faculty of Social Sciences' Department of Governance and International Relations.
Presentations were made by the presidential candidates from the four major political parties contesting the elections – Donald Ramotar of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C), David Granger of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Khemraj Ramjattan of the Alliance For Change (AFC) and Peter Persaud of The United Force (TUF).
They made presentations to the UG student body, whose noise levels especially from rowdy APNU supporters, prompted a warning from Chairperson of the proceedings Ms. Paulette Paul, that if the unruly supporters cannot behave themselves then the police will be called in to remove them.
The ‘four horsemen’ of elections 2011 just before the commencement of the discourse forum at the University of Guyana yesterday. From left are APNU’s David Granger, TUF’s Peter Persaud, AFC’s Khemraj Ramjattan and PPP/C’s Donald Ramotar.
Paul warned the noisy crowd that the police were prepared to remove persons who were bent on being unruly and she asked that the Presidential Candidates restrain their supporters. At one stage, Ramotar complained that the noisy and very rowdy persons were cutting into his speaking time.
In attendance at yesterday’s event were members of the diplomatic corps, the Chairman, Commissioner and staff of GECOM, and members of the faculty and student body of the university.
APNU Presidential Candidate David Granger, the first to speak, made several promises in the area of education and focused on the University of Guyana.
“I would like to congratulate the University of Guyana for launching this initiative and I would like to express my gratitude for giving us this opportunity to speak to you and of course it is good to be back in the George Walcott Lecture Theatre,” he said.
A section of the audience at the discourse forum yesterday. (Sonnel Nelson photos)
Granger spoke about the importance of education to the country’s development and said that this would be a focus of his Government should he be elected.
“Guyana’s future is right here today in the George Walcott Lecture Theatre. You are the future of Guyana. It cannot be otherwise. And the gateway to our future is education,” he said. Quoting H.G. Wells, Granger said that education is the backbone and bedrock of national development. “Education is the mother of economic growth. Education is the mother of employment. Education is the mother of empowerment,” he posited.
He criticised the Government for what he called 19 years of retrogression in education. “The PPP/C has damaged the very foundations of the education system. It continues to damage the system until today. It feels nothing must prevent its total domination of society, even at the cost of your education,” the APNU Presidential candidate said.
He claimed that after 19 years, 30 percent of nursery, primary and secondary teachers are unqualified and untrained and four out of five graduates leave the country.
“Shall we give the PPP another 19 years? He asked, to a resounding ‘no’ from APNU supporters.
He spoke out against what he described as political interference and control of the University of Guyana. “The solution is to ensure that the university has what it needs. APNU will give the University of Guyana what it needs to give you a quality education. We are not going to fight you down for funds...how can you run a university like this on a billion dollars? You need four billion dollars and we will give you that money. The solution is not to dominate the council of the university. The solution is to provide adequate funding for the university...to support our teachers and lecturers who are the lifeblood of the education system and we in the partnership promise that teachers and lecturers will be the best paid public servants in Guyana,” he said.
“We promise you, read my lips, one laptop per lecturer! OLPL!” he said.
He explained that APNU is committed to providing a good life for young people. “In particular our emphasis will be on education, because that is the partnership’s greatest concern. We want to make Guyana an education nation again,” he said.
Granger said APNU will guarantee that when the students leave the university they will have a job and this is the best way to assure that they will be able to pay back their student loans. “No more bus conducting...no more working in restaurants. You will get a job befitting your qualifications,” he declared.
He also bemoaned the lack of proper facilities on campus.
Granger, in answering a question about the PNC flag at one time being flown together with the flag of Guyana and the Guyana Defence Force flag, defended party paramountcy and said this is one of the reasons that there was never a military coup in Guyana.
The same person asked Granger about his role in the 1973 elections – when two PPP supporters were shot and killed - to which Granger answered, “In 1973, I was Commander at Atkinson Field. I was not at the scene of the shooting and I never shot anyone.”
Granger continued that because of what the PNC did in those days, the PPP inherited a GDF that was a professional body that is “obedient to the PPP as it had been to the PNC.”
In answering a question on what each candidate would do to bring fairness to the business sector and ensure that there is fair competition, Granger said that businessmen indicated to him that they wanted a level playing field. He said they wanted the contraband smuggling to end.
Granger also called for the setting up of the Public Procurement Commission, adding that all forms of illegality in business must be stamped out. He said that some businesses are given special treatment.
People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Presidential Candidate, Mr. Donald Ramotar, in his presentation, underscored the fact that current investments being made in areas such as hydro-power and Information Communication Technology (ICT) are the catalysts to the massive development drive envisioned by his party.
He stressed that investments being made are an investment in a solid foundation for the future.
Ramotar noted that Guyana has come a long way: from 1992 when the Guyanese economy was US$274M to US$2.3B in 2011; from a time when its foreign debt was seven and a half times the size of the economy to a less that 50 per cent currently; and to a time when the nation records average annual growth of five per cent.
“In unfavourable economic conditions, Guyana has risen to the challenges and withstood them,” Ramotar boasted.
He alluded to the recent CARICOM Heads of Government meeting where Guyana was once more described as the “only bright shining star” in the entire Caribbean Community.
The PPP/C Presidential Candidate questioned that if the developments seen to date are not progress, then what is.
According to him, continued growth, propelled by the massive investments in major initiatives like hydro-power and Information Communication technology (ICT) , is what will keep University graduates at home and what will provide them with the security of good jobs.
Ramotar pointed out that apart from the hydro-power project, the current administration is also looking at solar and wind power, agriculture expansion and diversification and expansion of mining activities to include refining gold and production of aluminum.
“The PPP/C is not only promising,” he stressed.
According to him, the incumbent party’s track record in advancing development and transformation of the country speaks volumes for itself, pointing to the One Laptop per Family programme, the construction of hundreds of schools, the achievement of universal primary education and the investments made in the University of Guyana.
Ramotar said that, once elected, the University of Guyana will benefit from a US$11M International Centre of Excellence for Biodiversity, a promise made by President Bharrat Jagdeo earlier this year.
The investment into a focused Centre for Biodiversity has been most welcomed by the education sector, environmental and even business sector stakeholders – expressly in light of the worsening realities of the climate change phenomenon. Given Guyana’s peculiar situation, the flora and fauna resource, the country is well-positioned to advance more focused biodiversity studies.
The PPP/C Presidential Candidate maintained that the party has a strong record of progress on which it can stand and continue the wave of progress Guyanese have seen.
“We have the professional and the political will to do it,” Ramotar declared.
Alliance for Change (AFC) Presidential Candidate, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan, bemoaned the state of the nation, making it clear that transformation can only be realized though change.
“AFC has a vision for a better tomorrow,” he said.
Ramjattan described the democracy as a fragile one, an elected dictatorship, and going a step further referred to it as a “sultanistic leadership” that benefits those in authority.
Expounding on what he called a “degenerate state of political affairs”, the AFC Presidential Candidate pointed to a report from Transparency International that found Guyana ranking 122 out of 160 on the corruption perception index.
“The state (state of the nation) is a result of sultanistic regime during the PPP/C rule,” Ramjattan said.
According to him, this has led to a disparaging state of inequality that is seeing the rich richer and the poor poorer, which in turn creates mistrust, disequilibrium and a lack of national cooperation; resulting in violence, crime, corruption, vulgarity and impoverishment that transcends the ethnic divide.
Ramjattan said change under the AFC will see reforms in every area, beginning with constitutional reform.
“It will not be an easy task…it will be a very difficult time ahead, but it will be done,” he said, “Our tomorrow depends on the choices we make today.”
Presidential Candidate of The United Force Peter Persaud lashed out at the other opposition parties for making what he described as “idle promises”. Giving one instance of such a promise, he said that the call to lower taxes must be made against the consideration of where the money would be recouped from.
Persaud said that TUF will undertake a review of the tax system and examine how reductions could be made in a prudent manner.
In answering the question about fairness in business, Persaud said that TUF will ensure all businesses are treated fairly and equally so that the private sector can become that engine of growth it is often envisaged to be.
Last Updated ( Friday, 11 November 2011 03:51 )