What are the real curses?

Two statements reportedly made by President David Granger in a speech to an audience in New York while attending the United Nations General Assembly attracted my attention: one was an exhortation to members of the Guyanese diaspora to return home as the country needed brains, not barrels, and the other was a description of sugar, rice, bauxite, gold, diamonds and timber as the “curse of the six sisters”, perhaps a play on the Seven Sisters in oil.

Unfortunately, Mr Granger did not on that or any earlier occasion indicate the basis, logic and justification of the call for brains. Guyanese abroad respectfully attend presidential visits as a social event but have not been responding to President Granger’s several calls, in the absence of an industrial or investment policy, or a diaspora policy, or a crime policy. We not only need such policies but also a study to identify the skills set the President so much wants to attract.

In their adopted countries, the members of the Guyanese diaspora have worked hard to acquire their skills, operate in a functioning democracy (despite Trump), are employed in an organised and professional work environment, are reasonably well paid, are not subject to glaring discrimination, enjoy a decent standard of living and, very importantly, feel safe in the society in which they live. None of these can be taken for granted in Guyana. Continue reading What are the real curses?

President ought to have shown better judgement in appointment of Slowe commission of inquiry

A couple of days after Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said some kind words to the media about Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum, the Prime Minister-controlled, state-owned Guyana Chronicle sought to discredit the Crime Chief. It did so by serialising extracts pulled from the confidential report to President Granger by his hand-picked Mr. Paul Slowe to carry out a one-man Commission of Inquiry (COI). Only the President, those very close to him, and Mr. Slowe himself would know the source of the leak. But make no mistake, if Prime Minister Nagamootoo wanted to shut down the drip, drip series by the Guyana Chronicle, all he needed to do was to pass on the instruction through one of his many mouthpieces.

With the extensive but selective disclosure by the State media, it would be irrational for the President to delay the tabling of the report in the National Assembly, and releasing it to the public. What the public will learn, and which explains why the Chronicle was so selective, is that Slowe himself found the allegation of a plot by an opportunistic and possibly unhinged complainant “unsubstantiated and therefore tenuous”. Mind you, these are the exact words used by Police Legal Adviser Justice Claudette Singh in her first note to the Police and repeated at the Commission of Inquiry, and by Blanhum at the COI. As the Americans would say, there was simply nothing there. Continue reading President ought to have shown better judgement in appointment of Slowe commission of inquiry

Companies may apply for information under the Access to Information Act

The public discussion on the Access to Information Act organised by the Guyana Bar Association was both useful and timely, particularly in the light of public calls for the disclosure of contracts entered into by the Government of Guyana.

However, the reported guidance in the media about the eligibility of persons to apply to the Commissioner of Information for disclosure is disturbing. The report states that an applicant must either be a Guyanese or a person domiciled in Guyana and adds that a company cannot be domiciled here, nor can an NGO. It is a matter of elementary law, not requiring the citing of any case authorities, that a company does indeed have a domicile. And in so far as persons are concerned, the Interpretation and General Clauses Act defines a ‘person’ inclusively as “any body of persons corporate or unincorporate …” (emphasis mine). Continue reading Companies may apply for information under the Access to Information Act

Corporate governance in the two most prominent public companies defined by the personalities, interests of their top executives

The National Insurance Scheme holds 8% of the issued shares in Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) while Secure International Finance Company Ltd owns 18.49%, a combined percentage of 26.49% of the company’s issued shares. My first-hand information is that both the NIS and Secure International have been trying for years to have a seat or two on DDL’s Board so that they can have a say in the strategic decisions of the board, exercise some control of the executive management and have access to the operations of the company.

I am advised that on every occasion their request has been rebuffed by one or both Mr Samaroo and Mr Persaud, one of whom, in the eternal tradition of the family property, is the current inheritor of the executive chairmanship of the company from the other. What makes this situation so strange is that, on paper at least, Messrs Persaud and Samaroo own only 0.27% of the shares in DDL. An examination of the shareholdings in DDL suggests that what one sees is not necessarily the effective or beneficial shareholding in the company. Continue reading Corporate governance in the two most prominent public companies defined by the personalities, interests of their top executives

Goverment failed to act on 2016 CoI recommendation to appoint high level committee

Just over one year after the most deadly disturbance at the Georgetown Prisons in March 2016 in which seventeen prisoners lost their lives, came the most fiery event in its more than one hundred year history. The government led by President Granger and Vice-President and Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan have been busy trying to exonerate themselves and the APNU+AFC government of any responsibility. President Granger, whose presidential campaign was predicated on security and good governance, defends Mr Ramjattan while the latter sought to excuse his failures to take meaningful and effective action to fix the broken justice and prison system partly on the necessity to subsidise GuySuCo.

President Granger’s response to the 2016 deaths was his most predictable: a Commission of Inquiry (CoI). Yet he and his government have failed to carry out the single most important and no cost recommendation – “the creation of a High Level Committee focused solely on reducing the cancer of over-crowding, along with a range of ancillary recommendations to improve the engagement of key agencies and to strengthen the professional capacity of the GPS to respond to its diverse challenges.”

Overly deferential to the President to whom the CoI expressed “unbounded gratitude”, the Executive Summary of its report noted that the authors would be “even more satisfied should our findings be acted upon with deliberate haste” and implored the President “in a year’s time to order a review of their effectiveness”. That the number of inmates in the jail actually increased between the two horrific events is a strong indicator that instead of action we had inaction and instead of effectiveness we witnessed negligence on a national scale. Continue reading Goverment failed to act on 2016 CoI recommendation to appoint high level committee