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PPP/C sweeps to victory in Guyana elections
Guyana's ruling People's Progressive Party - Civic (PPP-Civic) led by incumbent President Bharrat Jagdeo, has been re-elected for a fourth consecutive term with an even greater majority. The PPP/C took 54.6 % of the vote outpacing the main opposition Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) party and all other opponents combined. The PPP/C won 36 seats in the National Assembly, two more than the last time. The PNCR took 22 three less than it gained in the 2001 polls. Newcomers Alliance for Change (AFC) won 6, the alliance of the Guyana Action Party and Rise Organise and Rebuild (GAP – ROAR) one seat, and The United Force (TUF) one seat.
PNCR leader Robert Corbin conceded defeat but has warned that this government will need to seek a more inclusive form of government during its five-year term for the sake of the country's Afro-Guyanese part of the population.
Only 69 per cent of the 492,369 eligible voters went to the polls, a notable difference from the 2001 polls when 89 per cent of the 440,185 eligible electors cast ballots.
For the first time ever, the PPP/C secured Parliamentary seats for all
10 geographic constituencies, notably moving into Region 10, a traditional
stronghold of the PNCR. In fact, the PPP/C won majority votes in eight of
the 10 geographic constituencies.
Probably one of the most positive outcomes of these elections is that the expected violence did not materialize. This is a cause for hope in a country so ravaged by violent crimes recently.
Privy Council blocks arrest of T&T’s Chief Justice
The London-based Privy Council has blocked the arrest of T&T’s Chief Justice. It has ordered a continuation of an injunction by Trinidad and Tobago's high court that prevents any arrest of Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma. He is accused of perverting the course of public justice in the trial of former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday. Judicial review of the matter is scheduled for October.
In the meantime, Chief Justice, Satnarine Sharma, has bowed to
pressure, saying he has decided to step down from performing any judicial
duties until his application for judicial review is heard. However, the
Chief Justice made it clear that he was not resigning, opting only to
perform administrative duties, that is to say he would not preside over
any court matters.
Brutal murders at Guyana newspaper company
Approximately two weeks before general elections in Guyana gunmen invaded the Kaieteur News building and shot five newspaper printing press workers in the back of the head, killing them.
First, the guard at the Kaieteur News building entrance was shot and wounded in the skull before the 15 gunmen rushed inside and flushed the workers from their hiding places. According to a survivor of the massacre who hid successfully in a toilet, three of the workers hid in the lavatory while another sought refuge in a locker room. The gunmen encountered 2 workers and demanded that others come out from hiding. The gunmen then placed the workers face-down on the floor. The survivor said that from his hiding place he heard someone say, "Kill them."
Gunshots rang out. He said that from his hiding place he could see nothing. When it was over he saw five of his colleagues face down. They had all been shot in the head execution style.
Earlier that night, one man was reportedly killed and two others injured as a group of gunmen laid siege to Bagotstown, a nearby community shortly before 10 pm. Police officials say that the gunmen traveling in the car encountered a man driving a sports utility vehicle and opened fire, killing him. Another driver had his vehicle riddled with bullets.
Since then, the police have arrested and charged three men with the murder of the five press workers and the motorist.
Guyana, with 800,000 inhabitants, is divided between an Indian majority, which holds political power, and an Afro-Guyanese minority. Black gangs have attacked East Indians in the past few years while death squads have executed some young Afro-Guyanese. Kaieteur News is an East Indian-owned newspaper, and four of the newspaper victims were from the East Indian community. The fifth was Afro-Guyanese.
Jamaica government owes billions to pension funds
Jamaica’s Finance minister Dr. Omar Davies now owes pension fund managers billions dollars having held on to withholding taxes that should have been refunded on their investments. It is reported that the Finance Ministry is aware of and has acknowledged the liabilities they have and they say that they are unhappy with it and they are working towards allocating funds to pay back.
Not only has the payouts been delayed for years, the pension fund managers will have to suck up the opportunity cost of the interest they could have earned if they had reinvested the proceeds. The ministry has no plans to compensate pension fund managers by paying interest on the tax refunds, industry players fear.
In 1999, the Minister of Finance introduced withholding tax on investments made by pension funds, which up to that point were exempt from taxation. That refund period, according to some managers, is now taking two to three years.
Jamaica's total pension industry is now valued at about J$120 billion, a 20 per cent jump on the Financial Services Commission's 2004 estimate. It's unclear just how much the finance ministry is in debt to the pension funds, but a ministry source said the liability is captured under 'tax on interest' in the fiscal accounts, which for the first three months of this fiscal year was running at J$6 billion - J$2.5 billion higher than programmed.
T&T to divest BWIA
The Trinidad and Tobago government has announced plans to divest itself of the cash-strapped national airline, BWIA, again. Prime Minister Manning recently appointed a committee headed by businessman Arthur Lok Jack to restructure the airline that was previously sold in 1995 and later re-acquired by the government. The Government has pumped millions of dollars into the airline since it came into office in 2001. It is hoping that the airline would become a regional airline serving the needs of CARICOM countries. Caribbean governments have been discussing the formation of a regional airline for some time and there had been indications that BWIA would have joined with another cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, to form the regional entity.
Some of the troubles of the airline company face are:
Mobile phones taking over in Jamaica
New data show more Jamaicans are giving up their fixed telephone lines in favour of mobile phones. According to the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s (PIOJ) economic update for the January to March quarter, the number of land lines in service at the end of the three months totalled 329,000. This reflected a 13 per cent decline when compared to the corresponding period in 2005. The PIOJ says at the end of December 2005 there were 2.7 million subscribers compared to 2.2 million at the end of December in the previous year.
US exported rice draws ban
The presence of traces of unauthorized genetically engineered rice in batches of long grain rice has drawn a ban from the European Union and Japan. The contamination was first discovered in January by a customer of Riceland Foods, a rice-growers cooperative based in Arkansas. Over the ensuing months, samples were collected and tested. It is the first time such rice has been found in the U.S. commercial rice crop. How even trace amounts of the rice engineered to resist a herbicide got into the 2005 crop remains a mystery.
This engineered rice has a genetically modified protein that makes the rice plants resist glyphosate, a weed killer known to many gardeners as Round-Up. The herbicide-resistant trait lets farmers spray their fields with glyphosate, killing all the weeds but leaving the crop untouched. The rice strain that escaped has not yet been approved for sale in the USA. Opponents of genetically modified foods, which they call ‘franken’ foods, are wary of them because the long term effects of ingesting them are unknown.
Editor's Note: Jamaica imports lots of rice from the US. Could this banned rice end up in Jamaica? Maybe Jamaica should import more rice from Guyana instead.
‘Cuss’ words in school books draws ire of T&T parents
Several parents of pupils attending secondary schools throughout Trinidad want the Ministry of Education to remove a literature textbook from the syllabus, because it contains foul four-letter words. The parents said they were not prepared to have their young children exposed to "that foul language". They intend to lodge an official complaint at the ministry, they said.
The book in question, The Humming-Bird Tree, written by Ian McDonald, is on the list of textbooks for form three pupils this year. The book tells the tale of a relationship between a young man, Alan, and his village friends. To the village children, Alan had everything. But to Alan, it was the children of the village who had everything.
The book told of a village boy who took Alan exploring, teaching him to make a catapult, drink rum and to "swear like a cane cutter". Page six, line three reads: "We is fish!" Kaiser shouted. "We is fish! We don't give a dam', we don't give a blast, we don't give a f..k!" The award-winning book was first published in 1969 and in 1992 it was made into a BBC film.
The Ministry of Education denied placing the book on the list , but said the book was recommended by the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and by teachers for additional reading.
Jamaica and T&T shine at World Junior Champs
Both Jamaica and T&T ended up in the top ten medal winners in the recently completed World Junior Champioships in Beijing, China. Jamaica finished in 6th place with 8 medals, 2 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze. T&T came 9th with 4 medals, 2 gold and 2 bronze.
Kaliese Spencer copped the first gold medal of the meet for Jamaica by winning the women’s 400 m hurdles. The mens 4x100 m relay team of Winston Barnes, Renaldo Rose, Cawayne Jervis and Hohan Blake took the other gold on the final day of the meet.
For T&T, Rhonda Watkins and Renny Quow took home gold. Rhonda won the women’s long jump and Renny took the men’s 400 m impressively.
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