Monday, December 10, 2012

The MMA is not moving to take away state lands at Cotton Tree from the residents

In response to a totally inaccurate and grossly misleading article headed ‘Cotton Tree Residents battling MMA over titled lands‘ published in the Thursday, December 6 edition of the Kaieteur News, the MMA herein issues the following statement:

There is absolutely no truth whatsoever that the MMA or government is moving to ‘take away’ the state lands at Cotton Tree from the residents there. That will never happen.

Instead, there is an ongoing process which started in 2005 upon their request, to ‘divide up’ the lands and award them their individual titles. The original title (now cancelled) – Licence of Occupancy A105 -covering 1753 acres was issued in 1905 to the then proprietors of Cotton Tree.

Not unexpectedly, after 100 years, things have changed; the village population has grown and everyone wants to have a piece of the state land.

There was therefore the need to treat with their request for regularization.

So far, we have held a number of meetings in the village conducting investigations and gathering   information. This is very necessary for the transparency and fairness that is required.

Some aspects of the information sought included the following:

(a) Claims to entitlement – inheritance from foreparents, etc
(b)  Ownership of freehold (transported) lands at the front
(c)  Domicile history of claimants
(d)  Current and historical occupation and control of state lands
(e)  Speculation – sales and purchases – of the transported and state lands
(f) Needs – family size, source of income, etc.

During our interactions, we found some situations that concerned us gravely. For instance, we received representation of ownership for over 168 plots in the rice area and another 85 plots in the reef area.  However, only 27 persons controlled and cultivated all the lands with one farmer alone cultivating over 500 acres; another rented out over 230 acres.

Many of the purported owners had migrated but continued to exercise control over the state lands from overseas, having their agents renting them out to other farmers in the area.

A large number of plots had changed occupation by informal sale. Some of these transactions are done overseas. We even heard of situations where the son would sell while the father is overseas, who upon return would deem the sale illegal, and demand back the land without giving back the buyer any money. Any resistance from the buyer is threatened with court action.

Many other similar situations were brought to our attention which we believe were sufficient to justify our decision to have the situation regularized.

During all of this too the drainage and irrigation charges were not being paid. As a result we initiated the process to recover these charges. This process is the same as for all the other areas within the MMA and, as has been well publicized for some years now, the continued refusal to pay drainage and irrigation charges leads to re-possession and re-allocation of state lands.

As in 2008, we have been publishing notices for some months now. Many persons have responded and yet some have not. We take this opportunity to again warn those defaulters.

This is the real problem of Mansoor Khan, who is featured in the Kaieteur News article We first published his drainage and irrigation indebtedness during the re-possession/re-allocation exercise of 2008.  He owed three hundred and five thousand, one hundred and eighteen dollars ($305,118.00) then.  He refused to pay although the lands were cultivated by people who were paying him a rent.  Instead he filed suit in court against us. His case was “struck out as being wholly misconceived” in a ruling by Madam Justice George on May 21, 2009. Notwithstanding this he still has not paid anything as of date.

Currently his account stands at $428,518.00 as at June 30, 2012, and we have already received expressions of interest from other persons of Cotton Tree to be allocated the state lands that he controls. Mr Khan has had previous difficulties with the MMA in relation to land and payment issues.

So in summary, the issue is not, and has never been the taking away of the lands from the people of Cotton Tree. As we continue to move the process forward, however, it is our responsibility to ensure a fair and equitable process of allocation to them. Presently, we will be doing some surveys and we will be holding the next set of meetings with them.

It is our hope that all the residents and descendants of the proprietors of Cotton Tree will be given a title to or an interest in the state lands there as we guard against only a few persons, some of whom don’t even live in Guyana, being the only ones to benefit as is happening now.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chris Brown Guyana Show Canceled After Protests Over His 2009 Assault Of Rihanna

Organizers say American R&B star Chris Brown has canceled a stadium concert in Guyana after local protests over his 2009 beating of then-girlfriend Rihanna.

Brown was billed to headline a Dec. 26 show. But he drew the ire of women's rights groups and opposition lawmakers who said Brown would not be welcome in Guyana three years after his assault of Barbadian superstar Rihanna.

Concert promoter Hits & Jams Entertainment said Thursday that Brown backed out, citing discomfort with the protests.

In 2009, Brown hit, choked and bit Rihanna during an argument in Los Angeles. He later pleaded guilty to assault.

Since then, Brown has worked to repair his image, undergoing violence counseling and putting out a new album. He has a duet with Rihanna on her recently released record.

Friday, October 5, 2012

NLC scam and accountability process

While corruption and non-conformity of the societal order is an outcome of bad governance and non-functioning of government institutions, it leaves enough space for some crafty opportunists to amass large fortunes. Advanced democracies like the UK, US, Canada and Australia have strong media and criminal justice systems to combat corruption. But the developing world’s political and civil institutions are weaker, and in effect license corruption with impunity. However, as a part of the ongoing cleansing drive initiated by the electronic media to unearth unholy doings in the civil society, even some high ranking officials of Pakistan Army, Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Air Force are being tried and cases have been made public through the media.

The vibrant media has unveiled many major scams such as Pakistan Steel Mill’s Rs22 billion scam, NICL case, corruption in Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Railways, Haj corruption case, Nato containers’ case, rental power projects and the ephedrine quota case.

More recently, a stage is set against Major General Khalid Zaheer Akhtar, Lt. General Khalid Munir and Lt. General Afzal Muzzafar for their involvement in the National Logistics Cell (NLC) scandal. Better late, then never. Pakistan military has been already censured by the media on the dilly-dallying tactics adopted in the fulfilment of justice.

The initial reluctant response by the echelons of military’s accountability process can only be diluted, if military castigates this culture of impunity and restore its high-esteemed image in the eyes of the general public. It goes to the army’s credit that instead of hushing up the scandal, it ordered investigations and recording of the Summary of Evidence (SoE) that is the preliminary step in requisitioning a court martial.

All the three general officers are facing court-martial after being recalled into service. The GHQ is evaluating the evidence and experts are being consulted in the investigation of the record of the case.

Recalling the previous happening of the multi-billion-rupee National Logistics Cell (NLC) scam, it was the audit of accounts of the NLC, a subsidiary of Planning Commission that unearthed the mega scam. Established in August 1978, the NLC is an organisation involved in infrastructure development, provision of freight services, management of border terminals and strategic inland dry ports, manufacturing and engineering excellence, and enhancing energy resources.

The audit department had reported to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the NLC had obtained Rs4.3 billion in loans from banks between 2004 and 2008 for investment in volatile stock exchange market “by purchasing shares of different enlisted companies/institutions, violating the NLC’s Board of Directors (BoD) instructions” and suffered Rs1.84 billion losses. However, due to implementation of sagacious reforms, the NLC returned approximately Rs9.3 billion in loans in 2011 and showed a net profit of Rs3 billion.

But, this does not exonerate the incumbents from the financial irregularities and failure in observing the rule and regulations of the institution. The Board of Inquiry (BOI) was held by the Planning Commission and the recommendations were subsequently referred to the General Headquarters (GHQ) on September 20, 2010. The recording of four Summaries of Evidence (SoE) delayed the accountability process and the Army could not submit the inquiry report of the National Logistic Cell (NLC) scam by the deadline of June 30 given by parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Now, the Judge Advocate General of Pakistan Army is preparing the case for the court martial and consulting judicial experts. The credibility of the evidence gathered through the SoE will determine the next course of action by the Army.

The accused in the NLC scam are both military officers and civilians, and are to be tried separately under military and civil criminal laws. It is hoped that the accused in this trial should get full justice. The trial should not be either an eye-wash nor should be used as mean to divert the on-going media purification drive from the corrupt and mismanagement policies of current government.

More importantly, this unprecedented trial in the annals of Pakistan military history should not be an end in itself but a never ending continuation of cleansing process.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Career variety proves the spice of life for Guyanese immigrant Maurice Braithwaite

Maurice Braithwaite doesn’t like to talk about himself, but boy, does he tell great stories, many of which tell a lot about the storyteller.

Like this one, about growing up in a Georgetown, Guyana, tenement yard — a low end housing project — with an aunt who had 24 children — yep, 24 — yet took the then 13-year-old Braithwaite and his four siblings in after their father died.

“This house didn’t have any furniture,” the 71-year-old recalled. “Our bed was the floor. But for us young kids, it was very exciting.

“They used to call that particular tenement yard a stable yard, because the undertaker in those days had horse drawn carriages, and he used to keep his vehicle right under the house where we lived, because in Guyana all the houses were on stilts. When it rained the place would flood.”

Braithwaite’s twinkling eyes match his laugh as he’s telling this story, and it’s unclear if the engineer, the actor, the orator or the community activist in him gets the bigger tickle out of telling it.

“When people ask me how my acting career got started I said growing up in the stable yard,” he said. “It was a conglomerate of people who lived there; Chinese, Portuguese, African, East Indian, Amerindians, everyone. On the weekend, it was chaos. Once you come out of that place, if you aspired to be an actor, you got it all.”

It was from that muddy beginning that Braithwaite would go on to earn a electrical technology certificate from Guyana Technical Institute in 1966, then teach mechanical drawing, math and electrical lab there for two years

After immigrating to New York in 1971 Braithwaite earned a diploma in electrical circuits and systems from RCA Institute of Technology and a bachelors degree in electromechanical engineering from the City College of New York — he went to school at night, six days a week, for four years while working a full-time job at a Brooklyn electronic plant.

From 1977 until his 2005 retirement Braithwaite worked for Xerox, rising to customer service field manager for a staff of 30.

Inspired at 10 years old by an uncle who worked the Georgetown ‘vaudeville’ circuit, Braithwaite dabbled and then jumped into the Guyanese theatre, at first using his electrical training to light and design sets.
Eventually he moved to the stage — Braithwaite was the voice of Mentor in a hit radio serial about the fictional town of Susanberg, and worked on productions with the Guyana Theater Guild and another group, the Forum of Dramatic Aces.

Braithwaite and longtime friend and writer Francis Farrier started the theater group, Dramatic Core. The company toured the country, even visiting hard to reach gold and diamond mining camps in the unsettled interior.

Monday, July 9, 2012

President calls APNU’s attack on Housing Ministry “Vicious”

President Donald Ramotar has lash out at A Partnership for National Unity's attack against the staff at the Ministry of Housing and the work carried out by the Ministry in ensuring that every Guyanese own a home.
The Guyanese Head of State addressing the opening of 3rd International Building Expo being hosted by the Housing Ministry at the Guyana National Stadium this evening said the work of his Government, especially the housing sector speaks for itself.

President Ramotar described the attacks on the Ministry as vicious, which he said seeks to derail the hard and tireless efforts of the staff at the housing ministry.

Making reference to the G $20.9B slashed from the 2012 National Budget by the opposition parliamentary party the president noted that such callousness is an abuse to the working class of the country.

He warned that his government will not stand idly by and allow the opposition to taint development with corruption. The Preisdent notes that since the PPP/C government took office the Ministry of Housing was reinvigorated with energy with the aim of ensuring that citizens won their own home.

Government remains steadfast ensuring that the targeted 30,000 hosuelots are distributed within the next five years. The construction sector has contributed significantly to the country's gross domestic product the president said.

He reiterated that his government will continue to meet the needs of citizens hence improving their living standards despite the efforts by detractors to derail Guyana’s progress.