Headlines      Issue Released December 3 2003

Corruption the cause of T&T’s worst crisis says former AG

Ottawa — Former Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj stated in a speech last weekend that Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) faces the worst national crisis in recent history, a crisis he believes is related to corruption. And he criticized Caribbean governments for not dealing with poverty and attacking corruption.

Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj

Mr. Maharaj was speaking in Ottawa, Canada, last Saturday at the fifth anniversary dinner of the Shakuntala Benevolent Foundation, a charitable organization which has sister communities in Trinidad helping in the alleviation of poverty. The audience included nationals of T&T and representatives of diplomatic missions, various political organizations and politicians including several running for office in Ottawa.

Mr. Maharaj, who delivered the keynote address, said that the PNM government is closing its eyes on official corruption which "has now become a cancer that is eating away the fabric of the society".

He stated: "Patronage and nepotism are rampant and have become the order of the day. Organized crime has taken over the country. Kidnapping has become a norm. Government is unable to stop the crime menace and is not providing effective governance so that the people can be secure and prosperous".

Mr. Maharaj also charged that most Caribbean governments are not placing their priorities correctly. He said governments should be taking action to attack corruption and recover money looted from the treasury which could be used to alleviate poverty. He charged that the poverty level of most Caribbean countries has increased because the governments have not attacked official corruption. Instead, official corruption appears to have been encouraged by some governments.

Mr. Maharaj also charged that most Caribbean governments are not genuinely interested in reducing poverty which is the region's most pressing problem. 

"If they were interested in tackling corruption and poverty, they would have put the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on hold. They would have expended the huge sum allocated for the court on poverty reduction programs and taken urgent actions to tackle corruption. If they use the millions looted, they could have reduced poverty".

Mr. Maharaj said he is opposed to the establishment of the CCJ at this time and urges that the Caribbean retain the Privy Council as the final court of appeal. He notes that the service which the Privy Council provides to the Caribbean is free.

"If the Privy Council is removed and a Caribbean court is set up, billions will have to be spent annually to operate a proper alternative court, money better spent on other needs".
He recommends that Caribbean countries first repair their justice systems. He charged that justice in several countries is denied to the people. "The inefficient system of justice results in justice being rationed or denied and as a result people have lost confidence in the judicial system".

He noted that in the Privy Council, cases are not decided on the basis of the position of the party before the court or the position of the government or the standing of the lawyer but on the basis of principles of law and justice and the strength of the arguments in the case.

"The Privy Council is a fearless court. It does not bow to pressure and it delivers pure justice. A court that replaces the Privy Council must be a court which is capable of delivering these entitlements to the people".

Mr. Maharaj suggested that Caribbean governments first reform their legal and justice systems so that people can gain confidence on the quality of justice they deliver.
"It is the national systems which would produce the judges for the CCJ".

Mr. Maharaj met with political activists of T&T and he discussed with them the need to create an alternative political vehicle to win the next general elections in T&T. The group agreed to set up a co-ordinating committee to mobilize T&T citizens in Canada. They agreed to organize a bus tour by Mr. Maharaj across Canada in areas where T&T nationals are settled.

Asked if he would be willing to work with other groups in Trinidad to dislodge the PNM from office, Mr. Maharaj said he is willing to work with anyone and everyone as long as they have the same objectives and are interested in honest and equitable governments.


Discover India...in Hamilton

(Second of 3 parts)

By Dr. Mohan Ragbeer

India or Bharata Varsha is a federal democracy, the world's 7th largest country, covering 3,287,782 sq. km, and the second most populous, with about 1.1 billion people, 20 million of whom live outside India. It is separated from the rest of Asia by the Himalayas, the world's tallest mountains. Indians originally were people of the Vedas (Hindus) but are today a heterogeneous mosaic of ethnic, linguistic, social, economic and religious groups. Over 80% are Hindus and 12% Muslims. Christians, Buddhists, Parsis, Jews and others make up the rest. There are 15 major languages, eight of which have over 30 million speakers, and three of these have over 70 million. Most of the people are brown-skinned; the range is from very light to dark. Climate, geography, agriculture, industry and wealth vary, as do language, customs, manners, rituals, ceremonies, cuisine, dress, ways of thinking and learning, according to evolutionary and regional factors. India's music and its instruments are unique and known worldwide.

The culture of India is very old and at various times its territory included all of South Asia plus modern Afghanistan and parts of Iran. Recent excavations and reconstructions of ruins along the Indus and the Saraswati rivers - the latter recently found buried deep in the Rajasthan desert and previously dismissed by the British as mythical - reveal that Indian civilisation is millennia older than is currently taught in western and many Indian universities and lower schools, and more in line with Vedic writings. India has kept the longest continuous record of its history.

The first texts of its original Vedic religion appeared about 10,000 years BCE and others were added in the next several millennia by men and women seers. These texts are known collectively as the Vedas. 

India prospered in the millennia before Christ maintaining roughly 20% of the world's population - barring dips during the Muslim period when, according to Koenard Elst in his book The Negationism in India, about 100 million Hindus were immolated, perhaps the biggest holocaust in world history. 

India's agricultural products, weaving, gems, silks, crafts, metalwork etc provided "hot" items of an extensive trade with its neighbours and countries of the Middle East, Egypt and the Mediterranean. At home, its centres of higher learning (the world's first universities at Nalanda and Taxila, and later the great schools of Mathematics at Kusumapura (near modern Patna), Ujjain, Madras, Varanasi and elsewhere, royal support and religious institutions stimulated a stream of inventive academics - mathematicians, astronomers, grammarians, philosophers, physicians, writers, sages - to make original observations and discoveries many centuries - millennia often -- before any other observer. The records of these were widely circulated outside of India, directly by scholars and indirectly via translations into Persian, Greek, Latin and later Arabic.

India has led the world in mathematical thought. For example, the theorem known as Pythagoras theorem (6th century BCE) was proposed and solved by Baudhayana and his pupil Apastamba nearly 3,000 years before Pythagoras. Indians developed the concept of zero -some say over 5,000 years ago - which made rational calculations possible and without which there could be no science as we know it today. Later, mathematician Aryabhatta proposed from celestial observations that the earth spun on its axis once daily, calculated that speed quite accurately, giving an exact value for pi, and proposed that the planets orbited the sun. That was 1000 years before Copernicus and Galileo who, like all European scholars, had full access to the wealth of Indian writings - in mathematics, astronomy, literature, religious works, art, medicine etc. That knowledge was brought to Europe by the Arabs who had conquered the Mediterranean states by 732 CE. 

The father of surgery Susruta lived in the 7th century BCE and described operations, some of which are still done today. He and a much later successor Charaka wrote textbooks of Medicine, and ca 630 CE, Vagbhata wrote the Ashtanga Sangraha on Ayurveda which were translated into Arabic and known to the Moor Ibn Sena (Avicenna), who is credited with introducing Medicine to Europe.

The October 2003 issue of National Geographic Magazine credits the Arabs with Indian mathematical discoveries! 
The cities of the Saraswati/Indus civilisations, which flourished until 3900 years ago, then mysteriously disappeared, had features we enjoy today - urban planning, distinctive public buildings, wastewater control, paved streets, malls and other business centres, decorated interiors and places of worship 
With the passing of time and the accumulation of wealth and its uneven distribution, in India as in most countries - then as now - people changed, social and moral values declined and politics took new directions. Men and women of goodwill responded intellectually; some to make changes in government, sometimes by waging war, to provide a better environment for all, others by addressing spiritual and philosophical issues. Thus arose, in the 6th century BCE, Buddhism (Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, its founder) and Jainism (Jainist thought had begun to develop much earlier through 23 Tirthankaras (holy teachers) prior to the coming of Mahavira Vardhamma, the 24th); both of these offshoots of Hinduism focussed on Ahimsa or non-violence to all life, a doctrine that had evolved from the Vedic principle of Aum Shanti (Peace, in the name of God) that had developed over a period of 10,000 years. But the kingdoms of India were often in conflict yet some were able to rise above that to create, in the first millennium BCE, working confederacies dubbed by some modern authors as the world's first republics, many centuries before Plato's essay on that theme. 

Ahimsa was adopted by Mohandas Gandhi as a superior tool to armed revolution (as later proposed by Subhas Chandra Bose and others) to rid India of the British. (October 2nd marks the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, perhaps India's best-known name in Canada. This event is celebrated in Hamilton each year by a Peace march and programme at City Hall. This was incorporated into our "exhibit" on Leadership and epitomises India's attitude to Peace). 

Jainism and Buddhism influenced and converted the great pre-Christian empire builders, Chandragupta Maurya, his counsellor Chanukya (Kautilya) and his grandson Ashoka, and have in many ways affected India's response to external events since, often to her disadvantage. Ashoka gained just renown for his administrative skills, and his edicts, etched in stone, stand to this day to his credit as a wise and fair ruler (the pillar at Sarnath is a symbol of India's independence). In later years (ca. 400 CE), Chandragupta Vikramaditya expanded Indian influence to regions as far as Arabia, and sent Indian educators throughout the Middle East.

India's acceptance and nurturing of the world's great religions and the enduring philosophies on which they are based includes Christianity (there are tens of millions who say they can prove that Christ spent his eighteen 'missing' years in Indian ashrams and in preaching his Word throughout India), Islam, (in 622 CE, Islam was born and within a century had spread to the borders of India engulfing Iran and decimating its people, the Zoroastrians (Parsis); survivors fled to India which today has the world's largest Parsi population and more Muslims than either Pakistan or Bangladesh), and Sikhism. This attitude of tolerance has down the ages made India a safe haven for many: Jews, Parsis, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and others, the actions of the few extremists notwithstanding.
(To be concluded)


Cheerful Cherubims: These cute celestials were among the wide cast of characters in the Pageant at last Saturday’s Annual Christmas event presented by the Guyanese Presbyterians and Friends. The well attended function was held at St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Scarborough and featured Caroling, Dinner and the Pageant. Pix by Martin Latchana.


Guyana’s Opposition Leader gives his vision of governance


Corbin says PNC/R favours executive power sharing

Toronto — All is not well in the Land of Many Waters. This was the message delivered to a gathering of about 200 supporters and well-wishers of the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) by its leader Robert Corbin.

The Guyanese Opposition Leader and his delegation addressed the gathering at Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School on Sunday 23rd November where he sought to present his vision as the new leader of the opposition.

Corbin outlined his party’s vision for a new governing system that would “make all Guyanese irrespective of race, class or creed” feel part of the decision making process of Guyana. He revealed to his Canadian audience, his party’s preference for an executive power sharing arrangement to resolve the political stalemate that has his country in gridlock. 

Corbin said that this idea was not finding favour with the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) whom he said, claims to be already practising inclusive governance.

The Opposition Leader added that power sharing is being promoted by many in Guyana including civil society. Corbin denied accusations that he is seeking to gain power through the back door stating that the PNC could win an election on its own.
The PPP/C's policy position released in February, “'Towards Greater Inclusive Governance in Guyana,” was written in response to the PNC/R’s proposals, and pointed to a number of measures already in place which leaned towards more inclusive governance. 

The governing party said it has established a number of bi-partisan committees and has furnished the PNC/R with positions on over 50 state boards and committees. The document also stipulates a strong wish to expand on inclusive governance initiatives in the future. 

The audience paid rapt attention as the PNC/R members brought them up to date on the developments in Guyana. The delegation included Jerome Khan M.P, Volda Lawrence M.P. and PNC/R Treasurer, Muntaz Ali.

Muntaz Ali, who is also President of the National umbrella body of Regional Chambers of Commerce, painted a bleak picture of the business environment in Guyana. The well known Rosignol sawmiller pointed out the many bankruptcies and what he termed “unfavourable government polices” towards private investment in Guyana pointing out to the fate of the Investment Code which has languished in Parliament for many years.

Corbin in his feature address greeted the audience but swiftly moved to present a gloomy picture of the economy. He described the situation as appearing “bleak” and lamented the “state of decline” of the economy.

The newly elected leader, who appeared almost conciliatory acknowledged the unfavourable world market conditions facing Guyana’s exports but added that the administration could have done more to prevent the catastrophic decline of the three pillars of the economy, rice, bauxite and sugar.

Acknowledging that the bauxite industry was in a state of decline even during the PNC years he criticized the government for refusing to implement his party’s proposals to rescue the industry. He briefed the audience on the closure of the Bermine, Everton and Kwakwani operations and described the recent acquisition of Linmine by Omai as decimating the work force. Corbin said that Omai has only re-employed some 200 workers and their job security is not guaranteed since Omai is not certain of the industry’s future viability.

Corbin informed the audience of the decline of the rice industry noting that the banks have become the largest holders of real estate. He also noted that insolvencies in the industry are caused by low world market prices now at an all time low. The opposition leader wondered aloud why the PPP has allowed the industry to decline given that rice farmers are a large part of its constituency.
The sugar industry does not face a brighter future either, according to Corbin. He opined that the major expansion of this industry in Skeldon is ill advised given the low world prices and the impending discontinuation of preferential treatment from the EU.

The former Minister under the Burnham regime claimed that if Omai did not find new deposits in a few months, it will close its door in two years. He argued that the positive growth rates over the past few years have been due to gold exports by Omai whose exit will spell trouble for an already weakening economy.

The new opposition leader placed the blame for the deteriorating crime situation on the government. He claimed that the refusal of the administration to reform the police force resulted in the escalated crime situation.

Corbin offered that the excesses of the “black clothes” police have demoralized regular ranks, resulting in the lackadaisical attitude of the latter.

The PNC/R leader claimed that the violent events of the past year and a half started off as a protest against the “black clothes” when Shaka Blair was shot in Buxton. He said that thereafter Buxton residents prevented police from entering the village, and criminal elements took advantage of, and capitalized on the volatile situation there.

Corbin alleged that some groups sought to politicize the crime situation arguing that the crime spree was not racially motivated. He posited that because the majority of business men were Indians, they became targets of the bandits. Corbin claimed that some of the bandits were Indians and even joked that blacks and Indians were working together, albeit in a counter productive manner. 

The PNC/R leader concluded that all is not lost, he added that he believes that a bright future lies ahead if there is good governance and political stability. He called on Guyanese to continue providing assistance to those back home and to continue to lobby for positive political change in Guyana.


                Headlines Continued