Problems besetting the wretched tillers of the earth
Read by Khemraj Ramjattan, AFC Presidential Candidate, AFC Chairman

On a daily basis Guyanese people are bombarded by propaganda by NCN and GINA on agricultural productivity in Guyana. However, a more in-depth analysis of the agricultural situation in Guyana reveals a bleaker picture. Provision, cash and citrus farmers in the locality of the Parika Back Dam have sought the assistance of the AFC in highlighting the myriad problems they face. These farmers’ produce, from approximately 2000 acres, supply the Leonora, Parika and Bourda markets.

First is the deplorable state of the road which stretches approximately 4 miles. In the first quarter of this year, it was laced with “crush and run” which cost millions of dollars. The road has already begun to rapidly disintegrate leaving farmers in much of the same frustration they endured earlier in the year. Farmers are severely challenged in transporting their produce to the respective markets.

Secondly, those unable to transport and retail their produce directly at the markets are forced to accept unfair and unprofitable prices from middle men. Farmers have said that they have not seen the GMC in this area for years.

Thirdly, farmers have said that they experience difficulty in procuring fertilizer because of its prohibitive cost. Recently, there was a fertilizer distribution exercise in the area. However, like anything else administered by the PPP, this exercise was fraught with major dubious practices. Fertilizer was reportedly distributed to all and sundry inclusive of taxi drivers who subsequently resold it to farmers. Additionally, farmers and their families have never experienced artisan well water (save for a hand pump that was installed in the vicinity in typical nineteenth century fashion); nor electricity in this area.

And as if this is not all, rice farmers within the No.52-74 Corentyne area have complained to the AFC about the destruction of the Water Users Association by the Regional Chairman, Mr. Zulficar Mustapha. His aggressive, abusive conduct and exhibition of political clout towards the Association has seen several resignations of the accountant and rangers. His promises to pay to clear up the canals, $200 per rod, have not been kept. Contractors who have completed work have not been paid. And a promise to keep a Hymac in the area was again not fulfilled when he ordered its removal to Albion.

These myriad problems have resulted in rice fields not being drained so that reaping can be maximized. Harvesters are unable to go in to reap. Over 25000 acres are affected. The situation with the dams have worsened as a result of a contract by the Regional Chairman being given to Peter Lewis who with a straight-blade grader at $15,000 per hour is ensuring a literal pond on the dam with mounds of earth at the edges. The Water Users Association had recommended the angle-blade grader at $13,500 per hour from Satya Agri, which cuts the dirt from the edges and builds the middle of the dam.

Thus while the Finance Minister showers himself with encomiums about meeting MDG goals and while extravagant sums are being raised to appreciate Jagdeo’s poor and sordid record, working class “Back Dam people” being out of sight, are out of mind. Thus, what we have in Guyana is a situation where those who produce and feed our nation are themselves living in oppression.

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PPP/C Politicking in Aishalton Region 9, at Amerindian Heritage Day, 2011
Read by Martin Cheong, AFC Executive Member

The AFC notes with utter disgust the PPP/C’s continued politicking at what supposed to be national celebrations. In fact, national celebrations have now seemed to become PPP/C celebrations and campaign. This negative phenomenon is testimony to the growing insecurities of the government who is swiftly loosing hold on what it thought was fortified political power. We see this display at independence, May Day and other national activities and the Amerindian Heritage Month celebrations is no exception.

Starting with the launch on September 1, the Government discriminately invited Toshaos from Indigenous communities and personalities from groups that support the PPP/C to make presentations. Listening to the presenters gives one the impression that this government is the best thing that happened to Guyana. This is definitely far from the truth. The Guyana Times Newspaper edition of Sunday September 11, 2011 vividly captures this distasteful act displayed by representatives of the government during their speeches at the Amerindian Heritage Month Celebrations at Aishalton.

Minister Sukhai told the Indigenous people gathered that they “must utilize the land and other resources provided to them to develop their personal lives, communities and Guyana as a whole”. Interesting charge, Minister, but have you and your government provided the necessary resources to assist the communities to “utilize” their land by developing projects in their areas to enhance their lives? Our visit to Paramakatoi, Mahdia, Orealla, Siparuta, Annai, Sand Creek, Hussororo, Mabaruma Settlement and other communities in the last two months told us you haven’t. If after almost two decades the PPP/C government has failed to do so, they have failed half of a generation.

At the celebrations, the community of Aishalton, it was reported, received their land demarcation document. Why only now? Is it because the present Toshao is a strong supporter of the government and accepted demarcation to make them look good? The AFC is well informed that the previous Toshao did not accept demarcation because neither he nor the Village Council were satisfied with the land description. Has the description since changed? No it has not.

Strangely, the Minister in referring to contribution made by persons of Amerindians decent mentioned the late Mr. Stephen Campbell and Dr. George Norton (both members of the PNC). What about their own Dr. Desrey Fox’s contribution to Amerindian culture and education and Carolyn Rodrigues’ past efforts in community development and presently, Foreign Affairs. The Minister seems not to be inclined to give credit to her own.

Minister Sukhai also stated that the her ministry has been making representation in terms of providing educational facilities that will benefit youth in the remote communities. One hopes that those representations bear fruit soon. Hinterland communities have been starved for basic sports facilities for decades. The consequence is that we have very few persons from the hinterland competing regionally, nationally and internationally in any given sport. An AFC government will comprehensively address this issue. Hinterland sports will be weaved in the regional, national and international arenas. In fact sports scholarships will be offered to persons who excel in the various sports disciplines.

Mr. Norman Whittaker, newly appointed Minister of Local Government stated that the government had numerous consultations with Amerindian groups at both the local and national levels with the aim of addressing issues affecting them. Well Mr. Whittaker you and your Government’s so called consultations have failed to meet the basic needs of health, education, economic and infrastructural needs of Guyana’s poorest. The AFC now asks Mr. Whittaker “what did he do for the Amerindian communities in region 1 when he was Chairman of that region?” Reports from the Amerindian people in the area suggest that he did nothing. In fact one resident from Santa Rosa, Moruca mentioned that he only visited Santa Rosa when a Minister of the Government visited, never to address matters of concern to the communities.

Mr. Donald Ramotar, PPP/C’s Presidential Candidate promised to continue to provide Amerindians with the necessary service to make their livelihood comfortable. Yes Sir, that needs to be done urgently because in the 21st century, villagers are still walking from Sand Creek to Lethem, some 62 km and taking five days from Gun Strip to Lethem. Mr. Ramotar should do like the AFC’s executives do – use the “slushly” and “trench” trails to get to Lethem and not fly there in an aircraft. Feel a little of what the people in those areas feel Mr. Presidential Candidate!

Region 9 Chairman, Mr. Clarento Lucas should be ashamed to even stand to address such gathering. Annai, Sand Creek, Aishalton as well as the Gun Strip communities reported that they do not hear from him much more see him. One villager from Sand Creek exclaimed that “he is afraid to travel on the very roads he did not fix” They bewail the fact that millions are spent on the roads by the Region yearly but to little and no avail. They have literally begged the AFC to help them when in government. The Party has therefore committed to address the roads situation in Region 9 as well as the other hinterland areas as a matter of priority when in government.

While the Hilux 4runner given to Aishalton should be welcomed, this gift was strategically given on Amerindian Heritage Day as a cosmetic gesture to lure the deprived villagers to support the failed PPP/C government.

The Alliance For Change condemns strongly the PPP/C’s narrow minded scheme to own and control all national celebrations for partisan benefits. An AFC government will give all celebrations back to the people of Guyana.

Process for Replacement of AFC’s Prime Ministerial Candidate
Read by Cathy Hughes, AFC Executive Member

The AFC by article 18 of its Constitution has an obligation to allow its National Executive Committee, after due consultation with Regions and Groups, to recommend a suitable Prime Ministerial candidate. Such a recommendation ought to take into account a number of considerations and political circumstances.

This process will be followed in finding a replacement of the AFC’s Prime Ministerial candidate in view of Mrs. Sheila Holder’s decision to step down. The recommendation which can be unanimous or by majority vote of the membership of the National Executive will be made at the specially convened Executive meeting to be held on 17th September, 2011 at the Party’s Headquarters.

Indeed, in normal circumstances, such a recommendation, which can possibly include more than one candidate, must be ratified at a National Conference. Delegates representative of the Party’s membership at such a Conference must ratify the singular nominee if that be the recommendation; or, by majority vote elect the candidate if there be more that one nominee. This is the process by which the Presidential and Prime Ministerial candidates, namely Khemraj Ramjattan and Sheila Holder, were elected in October, 2010.

In view of the special circumstances at the present moment where a severe constraint will be put on the organisation and its finances, the Party being in campaign mode, the National Executive Committee may find it necessary to waive the requirement of a ratification process. This waiver will be decided on at this week-end’s meeting.

Caribbean Press Accountability
Read by Ruel Johnson

The Alliance For Change notes President Jagdeo’s recent assertion that his government recognises and is committed to the development of intellectual property and creative industries in Guyana. First stated at the Guyana Prize for Literature awards ceremony, he repeated this commitment at the dedication ceremony for the facilities upgrading of a private educational institution. While we concede that his words on both occasions were indeed inspiring - as seems to be a clear pattern - his record has clearly contradicted them.

We can consider the – for want of a less ironic word – ‘development’ of what is now marketed as The Caribbean Press. Launched in May 2009, this initiative came out of the President’s Commitment in 2008 to commit US $100,000 – some $20 million – annually towards an indigenous regional publishing house, one dedicated as it was understood then to the publication of contemporary Caribbean writing. As it is now, what we know that the Caribbean Press is nothing close to what was promised: no contemporary writers have so far been published; the editorial board exists outside of the region; the books are printed outside of not only Guyana but the region; and despite the Ministry of Culture taking responsibility for the Press, there is not so much as a contact person available at the Ministry responsible for it.

While we find as indefensible that the policy direction and management of what is supposed to be an indigenous press lies completely outside of the region, equally as important is the issue of fiscal accountability.

Production Costs

We have learned via the media that there are 30 titles that have been and are being printed; we further understand that there is a standard number of 400 copies of each of these titles being printed. Having examined similarly sized publications produced locally, and comparing commercial quotations for more high-gloss publications regionally, we can safely say that the productions costs of the Caribbean Press should not exceed a generously estimated US $5 per.

If we consider that there are a total of 12,000 (30 x 400) books printed, this should result in a total estimated cost of US $60,000. If we were to take on face value the President’s commitment of US $100,000 – which has not been modified or otherwise qualified since it was made – as annual, it means that so far US $300,000 or $60 million has been invested in the Caribbean Press. If it is that the commitment was a one-off, then it would be simply the US $100,000. Either way, assuming that our estimated printing costs and number of copies produced are correct, we still have either US $40,000 or US $240,000 to account for after printing.

Our questions to the Minister of Culture are:

· What is the exact amount of money that has been budgeted from 2009 to 2011 in funding the Caribbean Press, and how much of it has been expended?

· Under what budgetary allocation does the government’s commitment to the Press Fall?

· Outside of the printing costs, what other expenses does the Caribbean Press accrue and would the Minister be willing to release those figures?

Our Solution

While we await the Minister’s response, the AFC would like to hereby unequivocally state that the Caribbean Press – as obtains with other cultural initiatives engaged in by the administration – runs directly counter to enhancing the role of culture in development. An AFC government would be committed to truly engaging the Arts in the development of Guyana, investing in our cultural industries strategically and accountably. For example, a government supported publication industry – as well as every other creative industry – would be based on three simple but fundamental pillars:

The Local Artist – we are going to ensure that artists and writers producing work locally get paid for their creations, but also are directly employed on a sustainable basis. Whereas the Caribbean Press has deliberately stayed away from publishing contemporary writers under the Jagdeo regime, the AFC will engage our local writers and artists in producing books which engage our society as it is, even as we – as an adjunct to that – examine our history.

The Local Intellectual – we find it insulting to the local intellectual community, those who have stayed to contribute to Guyana’s development instead of opting to be part of our infamous brain drain, that the Board of the Caribbean Press consists as far as we know of no one resident in Guyana. An AFC publication mechanism would avail itself of the talents of people like literary scholar Professor Daisal Samad; seasoned editor, Sandra Granger, wife of David Granger; Curator of Castellani House, Elfrieda Bissember; Ameena Gafoor, Founder of the Arts Forum; Arnon Adams, current editor of the Guyana Review. And that is by no means an exhaustive list of people who are currently here who could have easily constituted an indigenous editorial board for the Caribbean Press.

The Local Entrepreneur – finally, the bulk of the costs associated with publication is printing. Instead of pumping your hard-earned tax dollars into much stronger economies on the insulting pretext that we lack the local capacity to produce printed work of sufficient quality, the AFC will invest in the development of small printers like Ramsaywack Arjune – a family run press at Grove; and medium sized printers like F & H Printery or Pavnik Press, the latter of which has worked with Ameena Gafoor to produce her Arts Journal for the past seven years.

Capacity building investment in local entrepreneurship is in the printing industry is not something strange to the Jagdeo administration – there are for example the indecent concessions given to Queen’s Atlantic Investments, parent company of Guyana Times and Global Printing. The main difference between how we would investment in local publishing would be that instead of funneling government ads to support a paper founded to support the President and attack his critics, we shall place your money, your tax-dollars in educational material that our children can use. And instead of creating concessions geared to put our friends into a printing business which receives the lion’s share of government printing jobs, we are going to give concessions – like tax exemptions on ink, paper, and equipment – on entrepreneurial small and medium printers.

That is the only way to develop an environment for the development of creative industries in small economies such as ours, and it is something that is clearly not being undertaken by the present regime.

Remembering Sheema Mangar
Read by Gerhard Ramsaroop, AFC Executive Member

September 11th is an important day for us as Guyanese to remember because it was the day on which a young life was snuffed out in a most disgusting way. Of course, we are speaking of young Ms Sheema Mangar.

What is even more tragic about her death is that there has been no justice in this case. Her case is emblematic of all that is wrong with this country. It is also representative of how many other youngsters have lost their lives with no justice in sight. There is Alicea Foster and young Ricky Jainarine, just 10 years old. It would be a travesty to mention these cases and not mention the Lindo Creek Massacre, which are all high profile cases that are screaming for justice in this country.

Someone has to know what happened here. Someone must know who committed these crimes but no one to date has come forward with any evidence, nor have the police been able to solve these murders. Why? The answer is fairly simple; the PPP has failed to invest in our men and women in uniform. We continue to pay policemen and women meagre salaries of $45,000 dollars per month, while in contrast we pay political operatives over $800,000 dollars per month.

With this government you cannot take anything for granted, not even democracy. We should hold these cases and the neglect of our security in this country at the forefront of our minds when we go to the polls, hopefully this year. For a change in this country we need to start holding elected officials responsible for their lack of performance.

As a previous US Ambassador aptly put it the current Minister of Home Affairs is a horseman of inertia. If foreigners can detect this and our leaders refuse to, what does that tell us? It is not that they don’t know this. It is that they just don't care and we need to elect people who give a damn in this country.

Vote for justice for Sheema Mangar, Ricky Jainarine, Alicia Foster, the Lindo Creek victims and all other victims of crime in Guyana, and also give our policemen and women a chance to be paid better, trained better and equipped better. VOTE AFC 2011.

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