Par Excellence: Padmashree Kiran Segal (3rd from right), a great exponent of Odissi dance and her troupe thrilled the audience at the York University last Sunday with their fine performance, marking the 57th Anniversary of India’s Independence. The programme was presented by Kalanidhi Fine Arts of Canada whose Artistic Director, Sudha Khandwani, is shown above (2nd from left) and the Consulate General of India, Mr Divyabh Manchanda at far right. Pix by Ramesh Ramkhalawan
End political wars - Carter tells Guyanese leaders
— "Guyana is blessed with extraordinary human and natural resources, which President Jagdeo and other leaders are struggling heroically to utilize. However, there is little prospect for either substantial economic or social progress unless there is a truce in the political wars.”
These sage words were uttered by former US president Jimmy Carter last week after three days of discussions with the various stakeholders in the political and civic circles in Guyana on ways of strengthening people participation in government.
“No one party should bear the blame. The traditions and culture of both major political parties are deeply entrenched and have their roots in 50 years of fierce rivalry that denies the legitimacy of the other party's concerns. This problem can be solved only with basic constitutional changes in the system of governance," Carter further advised.
The Head of the Carter Center who turns eighty in October met with President Bharrat
Jagdeo, Opposition Leader Robert Corbin, ROAR’s Leader Ravi Dev and the WPA. Other civic groups who met with Carter were: the African Cultural and Development Association, the Amerindian People's Association, the Guyana Indian Heritage Association, the Guyanese Organization of Indigenous Peoples, and the Indian Arrival Committee. He also met with the members of the Ethnic Relations Commission.
Carter’s and the Carter Center’s role were pivotal in the restoration of democracy to Guyana in 1992. The Center also played a key role in the aftermath of the elections.
The senior politician who has traveled the globe mediating between rival groups and countries sounded out the views of civil society as to whether the Center could continue to play a meaningful role in Guyana. There was more than a hint by Carter and his visiting team that the Center is preparing to leave Guyana because of a lack of progress on matters previously discussed and agreed upon.
President Jagdeo has indicated to Carter his interest in the Carter's Center continued role in Guyana in the run up to the 2006 General Elections and in the execution of the National Development Strategy (NDS).
The latter document had been initially put together with help from the Center.
The NDS is a comprehensive document that sought to identify the bottlenecks in the local economy and suggest ways of enhancing economic growth.
President Carter's parting statement added, "One of its key provisions (of the NDS) was a call for participatory democracy, in which opposition parties would share fully in shaping policies of the nation. Subsequently, there were promises of constitutional reform that would fulfill this commitment."
"Most members of parliament are directly dependent upon and responsible to the political party that chooses them, and not to the people whom they profess to represent. There are only spasmodic meetings between political leaders, and publicized agreements reached during those rare and brief sessions have not been fulfilled. The promises of constitutional reform have been frustrated," Carter observed.
The departing Nobel Prize winner told the media that he shared with both President Jagdeo and Opposition leader Corbin some of his thoughts that may guide the country to political stability and harmony.
1. The political leaders should consult with each other regularly, beginning with the implementation of agreements already reached, as described in the May 6, 2003, communiqué and other documents.
2. Representatives of the People's National Congress should return to their posts in the parliament.
3. All the provisions of the National Development Strategy should be debated in the parliament, with as many as possible implemented into law.
4. The Standing Committee on Constitutional Review should be reactivated to implement proposals for substantive governance and election system reforms, drawing heavily on civilian participation. The two party documents on governance represent a starting point.
5. An independent civil society forum should be created to lead a structured national discussion on a vision for governance of the country to promote reconciliation and the NDS.
Carter expressed the hope that civil society would organize itself in a nonpartisan fashion for this purpose.
The Carter Center and other international organizations would be eager to assist in these official and unofficial efforts and also to help ensure the integrity of future national elections, as requested by Guyanese leaders and civil society. In addition, the Center promotes legislation ensuring access to information and political campaign financing and has offered this service to the government of Guyana.
While the centre had denied that the ex-President was in Guyana to get the stalled political dialogue back on track, he made an opening statement which had generated interest. He said he believed that the basic integrity of Guyana's political, social and economic systems must be made more responsive to the needs and aspirations of all Guyanese.
Corbin told Carter that his party's main concern was "creating a very stable political environment so that this country can breathe again." Key to that was "the issue of inclusive governance, the unresponsiveness of the administration as evidenced by the death squad, their approach to the death squad issue, the question of local and general elections and the preparedness of the Guyana Elections Commission and the non-implementation of agreements which have been made already in the constructive engagement process."
The PPP has said that it is keen on having the Center's continued participation in the political process and it was also appreciative of the center's assistance in the garnering of stakeholders' inputs in the preparation and formulation of the National Development Strategy.
More shocking crime in TT
Officer down, cops hit over poor response
By Sandra Chouthi
Special to Indo Caribbean World
The August 10th shooting death of the Special Branch police officer guarding former president Arthur NR Robinson has sent shock waves throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
Acting Inspector Edward Williams was shot five times while Robinson and his daughter, Margaret Ann Robinson, were having dinner at the Smart Street, St Augustine, home of Dr Marjorie Thorpe, Dean at the University of the West Indies.
Williams, who had 34 years' service, was outside Thorpe's house while Robinson sat to dinner with other guests, including attorney Russell Martineau, author Earl Lovelace and artist Leroy Clarke.
Police sources said around 8.30 p.m., three armed bandits scaled the front gate of Thorpe's home and confronted Williams and Robinson's driver, former police constable Simmons.
After frisking Williams and taking away his service revolver, wallet and cell phone, one of the bandits pointed at Williams and said, "Yuh see yuh, yuh looking like police." He then ordered him to lie on the ground. Five nine-millimetre bullets were fired into Williams' chest and stomach by the bandit who then ran off with his partners.
Williams, 54, died on the spot. He was due to go on pre-retirement leave in February 2005.
Margaret Ann, who was the first to reach Williams' side and who has been hailed as a heroine for her courage, said, "We have to stand up to evil."
Displaying shades of her father's courage, (he having told members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force when members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen attacked Parliament to, "Attack with full force,") Margaret Ann said, "I went across and I put my hand on his and I prayed. We have people in the Police Service who need our help. We have to push for them to stand up to evil. We must have faith and not cower away. There is a saying, 'Evil triumphs when good men do nothing'."
Police Commissioner Trevor Paul, who arrived at the scene, said: "We have lost another policeman who was killed in the line of duty. He was killed protecting the lives of others. On behalf of the entire Police Service, I would like to extend deepest sympathies to the family of Acting Inspector Williams."
"This murder shows the level of recklessness
and the total loss of respect for human lives we are now seeing in the country.
Reaction to Williams' murder has been nothing but outrage and anger.
President Maxwell Richards said in a statement: "I am deeply saddened by this event. It was totally senseless and I hope that no effort will be spared to apprehend the persons responsible."
Dinner guest Leroy Clarke said he was more concerned about the attitude of the police.
"The police arrived about three to four hours after the shooting and that was only some of them. For most of the time, there was only one officer.
"I was totally disappointed with the response time, and can only imagine what takes place in Laventille and other areas," Clarke said.
Reactions from other sectors and the business community were swift.
Criminologist Dr. Ramesh Deosaran said: "The horror is stalking every door."
Christian Mouttet, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce: "It's gruesome, it's outrageous."
Mouttet said on August 12 that the country needs "immediate and drastic action at all levels to alleviate the escalating increase in crime and criminal activities and to reclaim our country from the hands of merciless criminals.
"Criminals are not only fleecing those off those who are trying to earn an honest living, such as (maxi taxi driver) Mr. (Winston) Monderoy, but they are trigger-happy and cold-blooded, murdering him in front of his wife, not because he protested, but because he flinched," Mouttet said.
Bhoe Tewarie, UWI principal, said: "The police have got to get their act together and understand that their job is not to be in the police station, but to be out on the streets."
National Security Minister Martin Joseph on August 12 said criminals have crossed the line. It was his first public statement since Williams was killed.
"There is an understanding worldwide that you do not kill law enforcement officers and especially the manner in which acting Inspector Edward Williams was executed. That is callous.
"We have a small band of people who are giving us hell, but I can assure you, we will beat them back."
Joseph's statements come in response not only to the murder of Williams, but two other police officers in the last month.
On July 14, Special Reserve Police Heston Joseph, 27, attached to the Highway Patrol Division, was shot and killed while trying to stop a robbery on a maxi taxi on the Eastern Main Road, Laventille.
PC Aloysius Charles, 54, attached to the Toco Police Station, was found with his head bashed in. Charles was part of a search party for an escape prisoner in Toco.
There have been several calls from the public - and one last week from artist Clarke - for a state of emergency in the last year to deal with crime. But Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who is also chairman of the Security Committee, has resisted adopting that course of action, saying it might have a negative effect on this country's foreign investment prospects.
The police have also come under severe attack in the last few weeks over their response time to crime reports from the public.
Artist Clarke said it took the police almost 25 minutes to respond to the call after Williams was killed. Clarke said when he asked the officer where were the police, he replied cynically, "I am the police."
"This is symbolic of the behaviour of people who have a particular responsibility," Clarke said.
Police officers are still answering the phone saying they have no vehicles or are telling the public that a particular report doesn't fall in their jurisdiction.
Such was the case with the death of Sylvan Lochan, whose body was found on August 9. Lochan, 58, of Mohess Road, Penal, had called police on the day he was found to report a break-in at his home. Police responded four hours later to find him dead.
Mohess Road residents slammed police for their poor response.
This is because of the police. If they had responded on time, Lochan would have been alive today," a villager said.
Residents also criticised the police for leaving the crime scene unprotected except for ticker tape. They had to draw the police's attention to a blood-stained shirt found at the scene.
As of August 10, the murder rate stood at 160.