Authors Posts by Mozzy1



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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“I don’t think I have ever seen anything like this before.. I was wondering what was happening with art in Guyana” the man said to the art students at the Umana Yana. The students from the University of Guyana had put on a large exhibition of over 100 pieces of work. The exhibition was called “Artists in Perception”. The exhibition was held from 19th to 24th June, 2017. The man said he was an artist, and he congratulated the students on their efforts.

I had dropped in on the exhibition. I did not expect the wide scope of the exhibition. I thought the exhibition was ‘awesome’. An artist asked ‘how so’ . I could not explain since I am not artsy and I do not have the words.

There were vibrant colours. One powerful installation by Alavina Naughton was dedicated to the women who were attacked by their male partners after they left abusive relationships. The artists asked the viewers what they would tell perpetrators. There were only three or four statements on the notepads when I visited on the day before the exhibition closed. I thought the note pad with the pens and the couple of statements were a critical part of the installation.

I had never seen any kind of installation in Guyana which included the viewers or asked the viewers to participate actively rather than just ‘viewing’.

One of the artists Michael Griffith titled one of his pieces in the Devnagari script in the catalogue – “आंखें” – aankhen – Eyes.

“Nothing like this before..” is a nice feeling in a place where ‘Nothing like this before..’ has inspired feelings of despair.

“Nothing like this before.. “was the feeling after the chatree coolie Attorney General refused to resign, and slap-and-strip-bheri was put on the list of PPP candidates. But ‘Here we go again..” was the feeling as the new Attorney General refuses to apologise to a Judge who asked for an apology, and a few citizens, not a tsunami, signed a petition calling for the removal of Minister Volda Lawrence.

“Where are we going..?” a woman who is not a PPP supporter asked in despair as she watched the video selfie of Minister Simona Broomes in the empty Parliament Chamber. Minister Broomes had captured the imagination of the poor working people as she walked into work places and tried to clear complaints made against employers.

The video selfie was a tribute to another woman who had captured the attention of Guyanese on social media who needed a laugh.

“Nothing like this before..” accompanied the feeling of anticipation and hope as the coalition Government came into power. There was a nice feeling that this was going to be the beginning of end of “winner take all politics” and that it was possible for every citizen to feel part of something different, but nicer than what obtained for the first 50 years or so.

May 2015 and the new Prime Minister “ Vows to bring about Constitutional Change,”. By April 2016 – the PM has been given responsibility for governance and is waiting on the report of a six person committee. In June June 2017, the PM is silent according to Stabroek News who headlines that Despite budget of $80m, no move made by gov’t on constitution reform discussions

And this is even after the Working Peoples’ Alliance called on the Prime Minister to “stop pussyfooting’.

The “Nothing like this before..’ of a dynamic transformative changing of the Governance systems has not happened.

I live in Subryanville in Georgetown. The area has always been prone to flooding – and was always the last to drain off after the rest of Georgetown. Many other people on the coast did not deal with flooding – it seems that post 2005, there were serious attempts to keep drains clear and pumps and kokers working. This month though, Subryanville has not flooded like other areas. The rains have been intense, water has raised but the water goes down soon after. There were repairs done to some of the infrastructure – the Ministry of Public Infrastructure had to do critical work which the City Council did not seem to be able to do. Nothing like this before .. for some of the residents meant not having to be so distressed by heavy rains. Nothing like this before.. has meant for me, being ‘dry’ while other people used to be ‘dry’ are now flooded.

The Subryanville scenario though has not been repeated throughout Guyana. There is a lapse in management which seems to be a symptom of some kind of disconnect among the different parts of the Government which are responsible for drainage.

“Nothing like this before..” was also another feeling after the Stem Guyana Robotics Exhibition at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall. It was a rainy Saturday morning. There were different groups exhibiting. There were all kinds of people who visited the sports hall to participate in the exhibition. Gender dynamics must have played out as quite a few men brought children with them.

One of the men visiting the exhibition was Stanley Greaves, an artist. The connection between art and technology is not often made in Guyana.

Another first for Guyana is the Youth Innovation Project of Guyana. The project invites proposals from young people in areas related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, Architecture, Arts, Architecture, Archaeology, Mathematics and Spirituality. There was a news release recently with a call for more applications to the fund.

I asked a community conscious young man who lives in Region 1 if he had applied. He said he did not know of the call and was not aware of any out reach activities related to the call. He will try to meet the deadline of 30 June though. Another young man who works in Region 6 said he heard of it , but thought that it was only about science and technology. He was cynical about the fund – ‘they will probably give those who they know’ but he decided to apply in good faith.

The fund has the possibility of creating more ‘Nothing like this before..” projects in Guyana.

Innovations in Governance though is not part of the call for the Youth Innovation Project. Maybe the Office of the Prime Minister might use the $80 million dollars later on innovative governance projects.

Young and other Guyanese will therefore have to find ways of changing ‘Here we go again.. ‘and “this set just like the last..’ to creating a ‘Nothing like this before.. “ Guyana which every citizen has equal access to the resources and in which all citizen can achieve their full potential.

(Coil will be extinguished as it tries to refuel. If all goes well, it will be lit by 7 August 2017)

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“I would like to see a solar panel on every roof in Guyana” said Raphael Hazel. The bureaucracies around the Deeds Registry and the electricity company prevented Raphael from sorting out grid electricity for the house.

As a result, Raphael had to go completely off the grid with solar energy much earlier than he intended.

The house, the Anchorage, is one of the remaining wooden houses in Guyana. The windows and doors are surrounded by graceful trimmings of carved wood. There are wooden shutters which are mixed with glass windows. The shutters were specially designed for shade and cooling from the sun – the source of the energy which now powers the appliances in the house.

Solar energy refers to the heat and light energy from the sun. There is rapid interest in harnessing the energy to replace fossil fuels. The interesting news from around the world – large polluter China now has a floating solar farm on land which had been destroyed by mining, oil giant Saudi Arabia plans to be an exporter of solar energy, oil producer Norway’s has a 400% increase in solar energy installations, India has a solar powered airport – indicate the potential and interest in turning to the sun for light.

Barbados seems to be leading in the Caribbean. They have been encouraging the use of solar water heaters – needed especially for the tourism sector. Barbados has moved from the focus on the solar water heaters alone. A Canadian company, Deltro, plans to establish a factory to make solar panels and there will be a solar farm.

The Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) also has a campaign about solar water heaters. I visited their office to see what information was available to the public. The only solar brochure available was about solar water heaters.

Many Guyanese who are glad to get clean running water in their houses would probably wonder what the fuss is about – hot water is well, kind of a luxury still and people seem to make do without it.

However, there might be increasing prosperity and people who are considering hot water installations will buy solar water heaters.

Many Guyanese who are not enjoying the periods of intense heat would probably want the GEA to also invest in researching and supporting the development of solar cooling technology. The GEA had a demonstration project. There doesn’t seem to be other places in Guyana where appropriate solar technology is being researched.

Guyana’s experiments with solar

Way back in the 1980s, there was a house in Lamaha Gardens, Georgetown which was fully powered by solar. I could not find information about the house. Raphael Hazel did his undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Guyana. He did his final year project on solar energy and in 1994 published his research “Flat plate collector utilizability for Guyana” His supervisor, Mr L. P Langevine, worked with the Solar Unit at the Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology. Mr Langevine published other research related to the use of solar energy in Guyana at the time. It was clear that there was some attention being paid to gathering knowledge. IAST no longer seems to be interested in solar energy.

There have been other publicly funded projects since then. The GEA DRAFT Strategic Plan notes that there were 1,750 systems installed in 21 hinterland villages. There was an intention to install 16,580 more solar systems under the 2012 LCDS . Other citizens who could afford solar in the hinterland regions have been building. There is no mention of any assessments or studies of the results of the installations.

Raphael Hazel’s vision of a solar panel on every rooftop will now include State House. Business like Demerara Bank and Nand Persaud International Communications have invested in solar. There are some small businesses in interior locations have also invested in solar. The example of Ajay Bhyro from Bartica was reported in the Stabroek News. One organisation has had to move from solar to grid while waiting to replace the batteries. The organisation does not have the funding to replace the batteries which have reached the end of life period.

The University of Guyana might have a solar farm, but there it seems to offer no scope for research and education about solar energy. The other tech-voc institutions in Guyana do not seem to offer any courses.

Government and solar energy

The Guyana Energy Agency is responsible for implementing the Government’s policy on energy. The Draft Energy Policy lists the following intentions of the Government :-

  1. Establish a transparent and streamlined process for evaluation and approval of energy projects. The aim is to facilitate private sector interest and confidence in participating in energy projects;

  2. Encourage the installation of grid tied solar photovoltaic farms on lands that have low agricultural value;

  3. Require that developers of solar photovoltaic farms consult with the local community before applying for planning permission;

  4. Encourage the utilisation of local content by developers in the purchase of goods and services, and in the employment of labour;

  5. Introduce fiscal incentive aimed at residential customers, commercial entities and developers to encourage the wide spread deployment of small, medium and large scale renewable energy technologies. For example,

    a. Tax rebates that reduce the taxable income of purchasers by the costs of the technology;

    b. Reduced duties free access at the port of entry;

    c. Inclusion of the cost of the technology in home mortgages; and

    d. Increased import duties and taxes on competitive technologies such as electric water heaters.

  6. Support the GEA to construct pilot projects to demonstrate a residential scale and commercial scale grid tied (with and without battery backup) solar photovoltaic (PV). The aim is to demonstrate the technical and commercial feasibility and benefits of these technologies.

Government has some fiscal investments for installation of solar energy. According to the draft Strategic Plan for the Guyana Energy Agency “In 2012, Government of Guyana Zero-rated the VAT and made fully exempt from Import Duties, the following: “Machinery and equipment for obtaining, generating, and utilizing energy from renewable energy sources, including Solar panels, Solar Lamps, Deep-Cycle Batteries, Solar Generators, Solar Water heaters, Solar Cookers, DC Solar Refrigerators, DC Solar Freezers, DC Solar Air Conditioners, Wind Turbines, Water Turbines, Power Inverters, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) Lamps. “

It seems that the zero rating from VAT has been removed, but the import duties are still relaxed.

The GEA will have the following objectives :-

GEA will continue to:

  • Develop and encourage the development and utilisation of sources of energy other than those sources presently in use.

  • Demonstrate, research and utilize solar photovoltaic technology as a source of renewable energy to meet energy needs where appropriate.

There is no mention of the formal training or certification available for persons interested in working on solar energy projects. There is no mention made of the adoption of quality standards for the solar energy sector.

Solar-preneurship” in Guyana

Solar-preneur is a word I saw in a BBC article about African micro-businesses providing solar energy services. Guyana has recently awarded large contracts for Solar installations – one for 57 government builidings, and

One diaspora based company – Greenheart Tree Energy has provided an installation to the Paramakatoi Tomato project. There wasn’t any information available on the financial arrangements. A Swiss/German company meeco won the contract for State House and has recently won a larger contract for 57 Government buildings.

It isn’t clear from the public information what kind of capacity would be left after the installation for local services in Guyana. Who will be responsible for maintenance? Is there potential for other micro-grid systems?

Raphael Hazel has created a company Blueberry Solar which provides solar energy installation services. He hoped to make a company in Guyana which would reconstruct solar panels from the broken chips. He has worked on one installation and will work on others. He has not bid for any projects as yet. He is waiting for some training from the Small Business Bureau about how small businesses could bid for the large Government contracts.

Clean and green?

Solar energy though might be clean, but the manufacture of the panels, the manufacture and disposal of the batteries all have some environmental impact. According to a National Geographic article, the ‘cheap solar panels’ from China come with higher carbon footprints than those from other places where environmental regulations are more stringent. The recycling of solar panels might not be economically feasible since the panels have long life. The life of batteries is shorter, and there are going to be problems with end of life use.

Raphael does not advocate that solar energy means abundant cheap energy. He recommends that managing his own installation means managing his consumption. The appliances have to be energy efficient. There have to be plans for rainy days and for night time. He prefers these limitations though, to relying on the main grid. He has plans to build a demonstration house which has been designed to be energy efficient and which would use solar energy.

He hopes to keep educating the public so that there will be increased usage of solar energy in Guyana.

(On Saturday 24 June, 2017 , STEM Guyana will be hosting a Robotics Exhibition at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall from 10am. There are plans to have a booth from a private company about solar energy. )

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“You aint apply yet.. what you waiting for?” the man asked me. He is an educator , Guyanese born and in full time employment in the United States. He earns supplemental income by tutoring students in English. The tutoring is done over the Internet. His students are in Taiwan. There is a 12 hour time difference so he starts working at 5am some days. Other times he works in the night from 7pm or so. He had visited Guyana recently and managed to conduct his classes though the Internet was slow.

The company provides software in which the tutors connect with the students using audio and video. The company is recruits people who have certified in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) or who are thinking about certifying. I emailed the agency he recommended. I wanted to find out if they recruited people living in Guyana. There has been no reply from the agency.

Karen is an educator living in Guyana. A few years ago, she had also encouraged me to join up with an essay writing service. She had a full time job but needed additional income. She registered with an agency based in the United Kingdom. The agency would send her topics for her to research and develop into essays. There would be other essays which needed editing. Apparently, there are many people who pay others to write and/or edit their essays and other documents. Karen did work for about a year with the agency. Sometimes, she subcontracted a friend. She stopped when a new job took up more of her time.

Joshua Kissoon provides IT services. The recent economic downturn in Guyana resulted in a reduction of clients in Guyana. He decided to register with as he was keen to pursue work in his field rather than have to take up other work. Joshua managed to secure a contract which requires him to work a full work week. The work requires him to sign in and be connected for at least two hours every day . He can work offline and then submit work afterwards. The company allows him some flexibility with the scheduling of the hours which is especially useful in the event the Internet goes down or there are electricity problems.

The work done by the ESL teacher, Karen and Joshua is made possible through developments of information and communication technologies. They are participating in what one writer refers to as the ‘Gig economy

The World Bank published a report in June 2015 titled “The Global Opportunity of online outsourcing”. The authors propose a definition of online outsourcing as :- “The contracting of third‐party workers and providers (often overseas) to supply services or perform tasks via Internet‐based marketplaces or platforms. These technology‐mediated channels allow clients to outsource their paid work to a large, distributed, global labour pool of remote workers, to enable performance, coordination, quality control, delivery, and payment of such services online. “

Technology-mediated channels”

The technology-mediated channels are usually web platforms which allow job-seekers and potential employers to create profiles and assignments. Some agencies do the matching or provide ‘managed services’, while others allow job-seekers to apply for the work or ‘open services’. Some of the companies provide online training and orientation opportunities. The Government of Malaysia has created eRezeki (translated to eLivelihood). The platform allows persons to register. The Government also has created ‘pusat rezeki’ or centres where people can access the platform, and also participate in training to enable them to participate as Digital Workers.

‘Paid Work’

The kind of work which has been available for online outsourcing usually requires high skill levels. The jobs tend to relate to computer programming, web development, graphics design, writing and content managementvideo and audio editing, management of IT infrastructure, online marketing and accounting. There are some jobs which might require basic IT literacy skills along with skills in other fields. These jobs might relate to areas such as research, data entry, transcription services and text conversion from digitised images, and online marketing.

The eRezeki platform in Malaysia provides for three work categories. These categories cover the range of possibilities for connecting workers with prospective clients. They are :-

  • Digital microtasks/ Microwork – which covers some of tasks requiring basic IT literacy skills

  • Digital Work – which covers the tasks which requires high skill levels

  • Digitally enabled work – work which is initiated through a contact on the platform, but completed offline. This could related to provision of services such as construction, cleaning, cooking, supporting events, care-giving, etc. .

Guyana’s Central Recruitment and Manpower Agency used to have a website to match employers with job seekers. The website is no longer active.

Remote Workers”

Guyana has experience with the call-centre industry and business process outsourcing. There is news recently that one company intends to increase employment from 2000 to 3000 workers.

Online outsourcing (OO) tends to include individual or small groups of individuals working from home or other locations where there is good Internet and reliable electricity.

Some OO companies recruit from different countries around the world. Other companies tend to restrict themselves to North America. In large countries, the ‘remote’ could mean connecting across different regions, cities and towns. In Guyana for example, there might be a tutor in Essequibo providing services to students in Georgetown. The interaction could be for a set number of hours for particular topics for example, or help with particular assignments. I understand that there are some lessons teachers who supplemented their face to face classes with remote interactions using Skype. There are some entrepreneurs who are apparently also already doing assignments and tasks for students. There has not been much discussion of the ethics of this kind of education entrepreneurship.

Joshua Kissoon had to provide a portfolio of work online. He sent over 30 applications, each one tailored for the job. He received 6 offers. He has also contracted two other persons , from India and Russia, to help him learn a new technology.

Karen said it took some time before she had her first assignment. Each assignment helped to build up her profile. She did not have direct contact with the students requesting the services. The ESL company from Taiwan interviews applicants.

There are concerns about the protection of workers, especially with contracts across borders. The trends seem to indicate that people in developing countries would not pursue online outsourcing for all of their income.

Payment online”

Guyanese who wish to pursue online outsourcing opportunities would have to deal with the limited options for receiving payments. Karen was able to negotiate with the essay writing agency to send her payments via Western Union. In order to avoid per transaction charges, she had to accumulate payments. She had to bear the charges. Joshua Kissoon has to use Paypal. He is exploring using Payoneer to access cash. He is concerned about the losses due to the transaction and exchange losses and will consider things like negotiating payments via Paypal with vendors.

The dilemma for micro-workers is that cost of receiving micro-payments reduces the significance of the earnings.

What can the Government of Guyana do?

The authors of the Global Opportunity in Online Outsourcing report recommend that Governments could broadly :-

“..enact positive policies that enable and promote the growth of the OO industry; and

remove legislative and regulatory barriers that inhibit the growth of the OO industry..”

Some of the specific actions they recommend include developing the workforce, creating the infrastructure and identifying and developing target markets.

The Government has increased the ICT infrastructure and the intended liberalisation of the telecoms sector is expected to improve the access to the Internet. The challenge though, is that while the Ministry of Public Telecommunications provide the infrastructures, it is up to the other Government programmes to make use of the infrastructure. An ICT Hub, is just that.. and would only be more useful if it is turned into a ‘Job/work centre’ for example.

The call centres apparently use our ‘English’ as a resource. The Government might want to support the certification of persons who want to acquire the English as a Second Language certifications.

Joshua Kissoon said that he has been able to work with the Internet and to manage with the fluctuating quality. The difficulty for him is ensuring a reliable power supply as he loses out every time there is blackout. He hopes to invest in solar power for his work space. There might be other persons who have to make similar considerations if they want to work from home. There is not much publicity available about Government incentives to pursue solar and other forms of energy.

The Guyanese opportunity for online outsourcing seems possible. There is a need to do some more analysis and to explore especially, a system for online micro-payments.

Karen is from Linden. She hopes that the affordable and good quality Internet will reach the area where her house is located. She looks froward to the day when she could return home and pursue the remote working opportunities.

(The internet (GTT) went down while I was writing this article. The article was delayed as a result )

Update 12 June , 2017 : Two persons confirmed that the Payoneer card works in Guyana.

Dr Rosh Khan also told me that Xoom is working in Guyana to allow cash payment.

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

The run up to the 2015 elections had some really active involvement of youths in dreaming about Guyana . Some young people wrote about the “Guyana I want “ .

Some of the youths got the Guyana they wanted, and it seems things have fizzled out a bit.

I did an All fools Manifesto in 2015and then forgot about dreaming about Guyana because of some of the emerging nightmares that the dreams were not going to happen.

So dreaming about Guyana in 51 years of independence and not in any random order as dreams are never in order. It would be nice if some of this happens now :-

  1. There will be no beating of children in Guyana’s schools. There is a report of teachers beating an Amerindian child who might be dyslexic. There are other children suffering around the country.

  2. The Minister of Education will resign if he cannot stop teachers from beating children in Guyana’s schools

  3. Guyanese will stop beating their children.

  4. Teachers who want to be beat children will resign and go and work in the Marriott hotel.

  5. Teachers who want to beat children will go and plant flower and medicinal herb gardens in their communities. The parents who want to beat children will go and work with them.

  6. There will be serious programmes to address bullying and other forms of violence in schools.

  7. Every child in primary school will know to read and write at their level.

  8. The Minister of Education and Chief Education Officer will resign if there are children in primary school who cannot read and write at the standard level.

  9. Every school will have clean and working toilets.

  10. The Attorney General will apologise to Justice Holder in open court.

  11. The Ethnic Relations Commission will be activated

  12. The Human Rights Commission will be activated

  13. The Women and Gender Equality Commission, the Rights of the Child Commission, the Ethnic Relations Commission and the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission will have persons who subscribe to the Human Rights Conventions which Guyana has agreed to even if Guyana has not bothered with enforcing them in law.

  14. Every child with a disability will have access to quality free education.

  15. The Local Government Commission will be activated

  16. The President will convene an independent investigation into the allegations of child sexual abuse against his party comrade, Councillor Winston Harding.

  17. The National Assembly will ask the President to convene a Tribunal to investigate the allegations of child sexual abuse against former Minister Manickchand’s nominee on the Right of the Child Commission, Kwame McKoy

  18. People will refuse to vote for slap-and-strip-bheri .

  19. The political parties will have child protection policies and policies against gender based violence for their members.

  20. There will be pavements on all nice new roads where cars are speeding to avoid the main roads

  21. Guyanese will stop littering.

  22. The Prevention of Discrimination Act will be amended to prevent discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

  23. The Constitution transformation process will begin in 2017. It might never end.

  24. President Granger and the Leader of the Opposition will give up on finding a chairman from GECOM and just do the right thing and invite Vladimir Putin to nominate a Chairperson.

  25. President Granger and Bharat Jagdeo will also agree to replace the other commissioners with nominees from China, USA, and the remainder from Exxon Mobil.

  26. Guyana will change laws to decriminalise marijuana and to allow the cultivation of hemp

  27. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer citizens (LGBTIQ)will have the same rights as others Those who opposed these rights will not be rewarded with National Awards

  28. Guyana will have an active and engaged National Science Research Council

  29. The Institute of Applied Science and Technology will be an active institute which operates in an accountable and transparent way and which engages with the public to stimulate science and technological innovation

  30. The VAT on private education will be abolished before the new school term starts.

  31. Guyana will admit that it has a problem with alcohol.

  32. Guyana will spend the same energy on alcohol control as they are doing on tobacco control.

  33. There will be an annual book,literature festival in every region and municipality of Guyana

  34. Every municipality and NDC will have a space for cultural events.

  35. Cultural events will not include events with loud music. I know two citizens who have had to leave their homes because of the noise on national holidays.

  36. President Granger and Bharat Jagdeo will do joint public service ads to ask bus drivers to drive at the speed limit.

  37. President Granger and Bharat Jagdeo will do joint public service ads to ask bus drivers to not play loud music.

  38. President Granger and Bharat Jagdeo and other MPs will use minibuses at random times to move around.

  39. The money being spent to develop a cultural policy will be used to buy lots of copies of all the books which have won Guyana Prizes and put them in the libraries so citizens can borrow and read. Apparently the National Library has to put them in reference only.

  40. There will be the same amount of news headlines and front page news photos on renewable energy as there are about oil.

  41. There will be the same number of groups who are interested in money from renewable energy as there are hustling for the pickings from the oil and gas

  42. Guyanese will work with their local authorities to keep their surroundings clean

  43. The Government will implement the draft policy on the use of free and open source software in the public sector. (I worked on it so I kind of have an interest )

  44. The Head of the Mental Health Unit in the Ministry of Public will be account for the comprehensive National Mental Health Strategy. There will be an activity by activity update on the plan.

  45. Prime Minister Nagamoottoo and his information empire will release the Exxon and all other related contracts to the public.

  46. There will be an article about Guyana in every single edition of Caribbean Beat and Zing.

  47. Prime Minister Nagamoottoo and his information empire will be transparent about their sophisticated public information strategies to not bee responsive on things like the Government’s decision on the referendum on gay sex and the Government not having a travel black list.

  48. The Minister of Natural Resources will use money from the Gold and Oil earninngs to compensate all of the citizens from Chenapau who they recently traumatised.

  49. The experimental work being done on open data in the Government will be consolidated and turned into official Government policy and practice on releasing data for the public to use.

  50. The efficiency at the Passport Office will be replicated at all other Government agencies.

  51. There will be an active and vibrant National Film Commission/Board to stimulate the development of films about and in Guyana

It is always complex, this national dreaming. Some of these dreams might be nightmares for other people.

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(Background logo share via Facebook. Creator Unknown)

by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“What are Hinduism’s views on the issue” the young Christian man asked. Independence morning and the issue we were talking about was gay rights. He felt that Christians were under attack on social media. He did not like the ‘cuss outs’ and hoped for civil conversation. He did not understand why people would be upset at the Church.

The Government had said that they will hold a referendum on gay rights and that legalizing homosexuality is a ‘sensitive issue’ .

Guyana had shamed itself internationally. Guyana voted to stop the funding of an investigator in the United Nations system to report on the abuses of LGBT people around the world. Guyana voted with voted with countries like Indonesia , where gay men are whipped in public, and Saudi Arabia, where public funds are used to pay people to chop of heads and hands of citizens, or to flog those who write blogs against the regime.

This is Guyana…

Minister Greenidge in lamenting the difficulty of addressing discrimination against LGBT citizens said – “but this is Guyana and in these countries you have a different mix of not only ethnic groupings, but you have religious groupings” .

His predecessors had said the same thing about “the divided society” and the fear of those who pray against homosexuals.

“This is Guyana’ is often used to show why Guyana is incapable of better.

Like the Marriott, the Government continues with the homophobic approach of the PPP to dealing with LGBT equality. The view that ‘We will not discriminate and we will not change the laws” is easier to express than facing the prayers of those who want to preserve the discrimination .

The image from outside the Ocean View sitting of Parliament in 2003 shows the religious diversity which the Government and Opposition cannot deal with.

President Granger gave hisaddress on the 51st Independence under the title “Diversity and Destiny” . The President made constant reference to the ethic and religious diversity. He spoke of no other kinds of diversity.

It is a shame he did not explain more on what he meant by social equality when he said “The ‘free state’ is one that is free from discrimination; it is one that is built on the basis of respect for cultural diversity, political inclusivity and social equality.”

First Lady Sandra Granger in a speech at another event spoke of a different kind of diversity and difference. She encouraged the audience to be inspired by LGBT youth, and other young people who deal with discrimination.

The Draft Social Cohesion plan refers to the LGBTQI as a marginalised group. It refers to the national consultations where the discussions on LGBTQI were “passionate”. Reasons for the discrimination included “inacceptable [sic] behaviour in the community, fear of family members being influenced or molested, religious beliefs, dress code/behaviour, not accepted traditionally or religiously” .

The draft strategic plan though has an objective to “Support and advocate for new or revised policies and legislation, revised public sector rules and regulations, updated business practices, updated workplace practices, and appropriate social and cultural norms that can strengthen respect for diversity, and confront social exclusion and intolerance, such as: – Enactment of sexual orientation legislation, that removes the stigma, discrimination, exclusion, and marginalization that are experienced by many in the LGBTQI community…; “

“This is Guyana” apparently is this place with contradictions where the Green Economy depends on mining and oil, and where politicians seem to want LGBT citizens to be equal without doing the work to challenge the homophobia of those who want the discrimination to continue.

Other people’s polite homophobia though seems to get rewards from the State.

The opposition to the 2003 Constitutional amendments involved sections of the Christian and Muslim communities.

Protestors in 2003. Image linked from

Bishop Juan Edghill and Pastor Raphael Massiah were active members of the Christian Fellowship which prayed with/for/against President Jagdeo and the others to ensure that there was no equality for LGBT citizens.

The Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana has maintained its opposition to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Guyana. Pastor Massiah and other Caribbean Christians also signed a letter to President Donald Trump this year . The letter was an appeal to the President Trump to send light instead of the shadows of ‘LGBT’ coercion the ‘same-sex agenda’ .

Bishop Juan Edghill became a Minister and is now a Member of Parliament , elected representative of the people who also voted for the chatree coolie and slap-and-strip-bheri.

Pastor Massiah is a recipient in this year’s honour list of the Cacique Crown of Honour. Sheikh Moeenul Hack who is from the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana is another recipient of the Cacique Crown of Honour.

It seems there is high reward for opposition to decriminalisation of homosexuality, not only in heaven, but also on Guyana’s earth.


Trinidadian activist Colin Robinson appealed to the leaders and others in Guyana to move beyond the Referendum. He reminded Christians that Jesus was crucified after a referendum of sorts.

A referendum was used in Guyana for the infamous 1980 Constitution. Ironically, referendum is coming up again in the discussion of the possibility of Bharat Jagdeo running for a third term.

The argument for Bharat Jagdeo is that the Constitutional amendments are flawed because they were not agreed by referendum. Bharat Jagdeo has spoken out against discrimination against LGBT citizens while saying that Guyana is not ready for same sex marriage.

He also has spoke about decriminalisation of marijuana even though he did nothing while President to decriminalise marijuana.

The Government has also shut down discussion about decriminalisation of marijuana. Independent Guyana apparently will continue to jail mostly poor people for marijuana offences. Minister Joseph Harmon is the Judiciary can decide how to apply the offences. This view is different from when Minister Harmon was in opposition when he seemed to share similar views to the current Leader of the Opposition.

Independent Jamaica had a National Commission on Ganja to address ganja decriminalisation.

Independent Guyana though, will not have any consensus or referendum on this issue.

Citizens will continue to be punished for the use of a substance which is legally used in other countries.

Human Rights in Guyana

The Constitution which might be invalid because it was not agreed by referendum has provisions for Human Rights. The Prime Minister, who is responsible for Governance was busy this week with consolidating the public information empire. There were no advertisements for any of the positions in the new entity. The Prime Minister has appointed one of his own politicians to head the new agency which is expected to ‘guard against’ the partisanship of the past.

The Prime Minister has stopped providing public information on the work he is doing to activate the Ethnic Relations Commission and the Human Rights Commission.  These commissions are tasked in the Constitution with raising awareness about Human Rights in Guyana.

The Women and Gender Equality Commission is another Constitutional commission. This week , they issued a statement which called for a repeal of all archaic and discriminatory laws. They reminded citizens of the protection of human rights of all Guyanese.

The reason for the statement was for the WGEC to respond to the social media posts by Commissioner Nicole Cole. Nicole Cole has been making homophobic statements on social media. She, like the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana and the churches associated with Bishop Edghill and Pastor Massiah, is against the changing of the laws.

Nicole Cole has been visible and active on discrimination against women and children. I have been part of some of the protests with her.  Many of the people who are saying No to the referendum and who are concerned about her role on the Commission have not protested with us.

Many of the organisations which protest homosexuality have also not protested with Nicole Cole on any of the other issues she has protested about, especially as they relate to violence against women and children.

Nicole Cole is a representative of the Rastafari community on the Women and Gender Equality Commission. She reportedly said that the Rastafari faith will never condone the legalisation of buggery.

Years ago, I had interactions with a man who had no problems invoking his faith for his homophobia. He said he was Rastafari and like Nicole Cole, condemned all those who stood for equality of LGBT citizens.

In a space of a year or two  , he said he changed his views. He eventually wrote a facebook post advocating acceptance and talked about his change in views.

I do not know his views now as the interactions stopped.

He told me then that he had a chance to reflect on his views as he met different people . He had discussed with a Rasta elder as well who gave him a different view on love and discrimination.

He said “I realized One Love is exactly that. No exceptions.“

Another young man asked me about the referendum. He felt hopeless about Guyana after the announcement of the referendum and the general reluctance of the Government to do anything positive for human rights. He had voted for the Coalition and hoped for change.

It is a shame in Guyana at 51 years, ‘One Love’ is not a Government which will not rise above the ‘division’ and institute equality for all of its citizens.

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“Vidya, Granger must have lost his bloody mind.  It would have been better for him to not say anything.” said the young man who had welcomed President Granger and the Coalition Government in May 2015. We were talking about our despair at President Granger endorsement of the refusal of the Attorney General to apologise to Justice Franklin Holder.

We had both agreed that President Granger was a nice man. We disagreed on a few other things. Many people had expected that the change in Government would close the period of chatree coolie and slap-and-striip-bheri kinds of issues.

Mr Rashleigh Jackson was Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1990 when his son was arrested with marijuana. Desmond Hoyte was President. Minister Jackson resigned. These days, many countries, including Jamaica, have made moves to decriminalise marijuana. There are no memories of any other Minister coming close to being cited for contempt by any court in Guyana.

The General Secretary of the PNC at an event on Friday 19 May, 2017 said that President Granger is following in Burnham’s footsteps. The PNC seems to be yearning for Burnham, the glory days when Burnham’s Guyana was big in the world. Some of Burnham’s Attorney Generals are around. They were part of the glory days. There were no known reasons for any Judge to ask for an apology. Maybe the Judges were scared of Bunrham, who knows?

President Granger was not at the event. He was on his way to Saudi Arabia, his second visit. Saudi Arabia flogs and beheads its citizens. Saudi Arabia is hosting President Granger and President Trumpr and others Saudi Arabia is big in the Islamic Development Bank. Guyana hopes to access money from the Islamic Development Bank. Guyana allows the beating of children in schools, but no other flogging of citizens. There have been no hangings in awhile and the President has said he does not intend to sign any death warrants.

The President always speaks courteously to people. Nobody has had any complaints of cuss outs or buse outs or reasons to demand apologies from him for the things he has said. It is a shame that the courtesy does not replicate in other places.

From 5 hours to less than 30 minutes to apply for a passport..

The Passport Office on a humid Friday morning is half full. At the entrance, some men are calling taxi taxi., others are selling passport cases and I hear one asking if I wanted a passport form.

The last time I visited in October 2012, Donald Ramotar/Bharat Jagdeo were in power. I had posted on Facebook “Such a joy today at the passport office, from 8am to 3pm.. first in the cowshed.. the cool breeze with the hot sun and then as I give thanks to the PPP for the quality service.. the Guyana Police Force band strikes up ‘How Great thou art’ and then ‘Hear oh Lord.. ‘ and then we move to the other enclosed building.. and I get to ponder on the photographs of the President and the Prime Minister for the next few hours while I make sure I don’t use my cell phone in the building.. everybody polite though..”

There are no signs anywhere in the Passport Office saying where to go first. The pictures of the President and Prime Minister have changed. They are both smiling though. There is the faded “No Cell phone sign.”

I sit and ask a woman next to me if this is where we have to hand in the forms. She says, she is not sure, but go to the ‘Front Desk’.

The officer at the Front Desk is chewing gum and has her phone in her lap. She does not seem to too happy to be there , like the President and the Prime Minister on the wall.

The Immigration Officer who is custodian of the borders and ports of entry is probably not the best person to smile with confused members of the public.

I join a line which seems to have people going to the desk. However, the line doesn’t seem to be moving. People seem to be coming from all over to the Front Desk.

I ask a woman in the line if this is the line to hand in applications. She smiled and said no, she thinks the line is for those collecting passports.

I see another woman who was dressed like an officer. I asked her where to stand. She smile as well and tells me stand right there in front of the desk and the Front Desk officer would see me.

President Granger’s and Prime Minister Nagamottoo’s pictures are still smiling.

The officer behind the Front Desk looked up and said, no that is the line over there and she pointed in a different place. It was kind of diagonal away from the desk and it looks as though people would have to walk across the front of the line of people waiting for passports.

I moved again.

I imagined a bubble coming out of the mouth of the Front Desk officer and bursting over my application forms. But there is no bubble.

I reached and she checked the forms. She told me to have a seat. She pointed in the direction of the dark windows marked 1, 2 and 3.. “Somebody will call you”.

I asked her what happens next. She told me that I must sit and wait, and that the persons behind the dark windows will tell me what will happen next.

The woman sitting next to me says that is where we pay. I go up . I pay. We are paying for this service.

The woman there is talking to someone else. I push my face as close as could to the dark glass to see who is behind. I feel foolish talking to a dark window. Woman looks like if she is smiling. She takes a call on her phone too as I leave. I am told to go and sit down in a different place. Another woman comes in and sits down next to me. She is uncertain. She sits for a minute or two and then asks me where to go. I feel like an expert now.

There are some officers calling ‘next’ in a door way across the room. You have to kind of pay attention. I can’t imagine President Granger shouting ‘next’ to any of the citizens to get them in line to do anything with him. In some places, it would be ‘next person please’. But not here, maybe in the future.

My ‘next’ comes and I go to wait on nice comfortable settee outside a booth. The officer in the booth takes the application, and the picture and so, and then tells me when to go back for the passport. Something tells me to ask when to go back, to ask the opening hours. She tells me they are open from 7am to 3pm. I had assumed that it would have been 8am to 430pm like other working places.

I made it out of the Passport Office less than the 30 minutes. If I knew where to go and what to do it would probably have even be a shorter time. There are no signs anywhere saying what are the working hours for the Passport Office. Maybe the lack of signs and information is to enable citizens to talk to each other.

The time has improved from the 5 hours at the end of the PPP rule.

The lack of information though, about how to navigate the room shows that some attitudes towards citizens remain the same. There is a feeling that I did not belong in that place and that I had no business to be there. I know this is not the reason why they finish dealing with people quickly – to get rid of them.

I wonder if the officers themselves have ever made suggestions as to how to improve the seating locations so that the flow could be smoother and there would be no need for anyone to have

Maybe when the oil starts flowing, things will change. We have few choices though, when dealing with the State. We don’t protest too much. The Attorney General’s lack of apology has not bothered too many people.

The no-apology Attorney General reportedly told a group of LGBT-loving people that the Government will hold a referendum on the decriminalization of male homosexuality. The Attorney General it seems does not know that Human rights are not gifts from the majority to the minority . The referendum has been described as a ‘threat’ by some activists.

There were no reports of visible protests or of anybody shouting ‘Get out de place. Don’t tek yuh eyes and pass we”

There are no reports of the Attorney General having to leave the event with the LGBT-loving people like how Justice Holder had to leave the court room.

It seems that the Attorney General’s refusal to apologise to Justice Holder is the price we have to pay for the shorter time at the Passport Office. People have no choice but to keep their minds.


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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

Apologies and arcches..

11 May 2017 . Two years after the elections which brought the coalition Government to power. The day was Social Cohesion Day. Citizens travelling on the East Coast were not feeling the social cohesion. They vented about about the traffic jam caused by Ansa McAl and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure. Ansa McAl was giving an arch to Guyana. They had to hurry up with the installation because big ones were going to be in Guyana.

According to a Stabroek News article , Ansa Mcal and the Ministry did not ‘expect this”. A lot of coalition supporters have been saying this about many other things that the Government is doing or not doing. And ‘this’ is not about pleasant surprises.

Ansa McAl and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure changed their plans and freed up the road. The damage was done already as with so many things which cannot be fixed with apologies.

The frightening thing about the episode on 11 May 207, the second anniversary of the coalition government is the apparent lack of thought into the decision. What other decisions are the nice Minister Patterson making for which he is not anticipating the consequences? Are other Ministers making similar decisions without any assessment of consequences?

Any commuter would have told the Minister and Ansa McAl not to block the East Coast and the East Bank Roads on week days. What other projects are being implemented without sufficient thought and consultation with citizens? Which Government initiatives have changed in design after ‘consultation’ with citizens?

But vanity projects seem vital to the administration. I have had to protest other Ansa McAl structures around the country with sexist messages . Cynic that I am, I imagined that the apologies were written in advance of the disruption and did not take them seriously.

Maybe Ansa McAl in redeeming itself would move to announcing which Guyanese brands and products they are distributing around the Caribbean.

And maybe Guyana will have an arch somewhere in Trinidad & Tobago soon.

Minister Patterson has been accountable to the public on more than one occasion. His apology is nice and different from the contempt showed by the Attorney General Basil Williams who refuses to apologise to Justice Franklin Holder.

Two years into the coalition government and the legacy of the chatree coolie seems to continue over at the Attorney General’s chambers. It seems as though more is to come unless the AG’s advisory council intervenes.

Citizens can expect further disruptions. There will be some apologies. Other times there will be no apology, but fascinating explanations.

Like the unexpected expansion of barricades around Parliament on the day before the 2nd anniversary. Citizens are frustrated as they had to find their buses to go home. And some are laughing. The Guyana Police Force apparently believes that somebody will attack the parliament. It might have been an All Fool’s Day Joke on the 11 May, 2017.

But the Police apparently are serious. Citizens then will soon come to resent the disruption when parliament is in session. Maybe Parliament should meet on a Sunday then. There was a threat on the President’s life. Some citizens were vicious in their rantings over who was plotting. No one has been charged as yet. The Police have been improving in some areas.

Solving crime

Crime Chief Blanhum has said that the police have been able to ‘solve’ more cases. His work on the Babita Sarjou murder investigation gained him public support. His boss was the man in charge of the investigation.

The trouble though is that the police is only one part of the justice system. The difficulty then comes in the convictions and prosecutions. And with an Attorney General who could refuse to apologise to the Judge, what else is going on after the police charge people? And what about the crimes which are not reported because the Crime Chief cannot be in every police station? And is how is the Government ensuring that the Crime Chief’s competence is held as an example throughout the GPF?

It would have been nice if these kinds of questions could be answered as part of a Government policy on free and open engagement with citizens. The man in charge of information is the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Nagamottoo’s use of our GYD 984,000 .

Sunday 14 May, 2017. There are full page centre page ads paid for with the permission of Prime Minister Nagamottoo. I get some costs for advertising from three newspapers which carried the paid advertisement. The total cost is approximately GYD 984,000.

The ads say that I have been experiencing less blackouts . This is a day after the third full day blackout in the last nine months or so.

I did not measure blackout during the PPP time. I had a sense in the last few years before the appointment of the Prime Minister that the blackouts had eased. We certainly did not have long periods. GPL and not the Prime Minister is responsible for accountability on blackouts. GPL might have data on the blackouts under various Presidents.

But, Prime Minister Nagamottoo spends a million dollars of taxpayers money to construct an alternative reality. Apparently, I should feel accomplished that I can experience long blackouts because the Prime Minister tells me they are less than before.

Minister Joe Harmon had said that public sector spending was being tightened .. reusing envelopes and so on. Is the money saved on envelopes being used in this misinformation project?

Different people will have different assessments of the Government. It gets complicated when you have to weigh up Minister Patterson’s willingness to apologise with the refusal of the Attorney General to do the same. Many people would agree to praise the efforts to keep the city clean.

There used to be a spot by the city constabulary office in Bourda Market which was always had a puddle of nasty water. That puddle has gone, and it is nice to walk on clean pavements after heavy rains. I keep looking for the re-emergence of the nasty puddle. But I have not seen it.

Other parts of the country have experienced flooding in the last two years, some of the first time. The flood on Saturday May 6, 2017 might have been caused by negligence of some city workers. Camp Street and other parts of Georgetown still floods.

Many citizens are happy with the improvements in passport processing.

I like how the water pressure increases sometimes at certain times of the day. The water though varies in quality.

Two years into the coalition Government, there is a variation in quality across the Government. Two years into the coalition Government, there is no sign of commitment from the coalition  to consistent quality across the Government. Otherwise, we would not be spending money on advertisements to tell us we are having ‘less blackouts’

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“De glue, de glue.. “ the fish vendor used to tell me as he threw the fish bladder into a bucket. He hinted at ‘runnings’ when I asked what they used it for. I got the impression that Fish glue was used somehow in the cocaine trade. The fish vendor it seemed did not ask any questions and did not challenge my assumptions.

The big arrest in 2007 confirmed for me that fish glue to package the cocaine. Or something like that.

A student did an online journalism assignment on the fish bladder/glue trade from Guyana. Fish glue is used for looking after the skin and other things. There is an export market to China. The fish glue is really not about cocaine.

But the way stories work, the current Google search results for ‘fish glue guyana’ show the cocaine story. There are some generated links to places which might have fish glue from Guyana but they do not seem to lead to any more stories.

How much does fish glue export contribute to the local economy? Does Prime Minister Nagamootoo as the custodian of public information in Guyana keep and share that kind of information?

Other students did an assignment which looked at the economics of festivals in Guyana. They talked to kite makers whose work is seasonal. Politicians hand out kites. The students asked some public officials about the cost of the kites and the origins of the kites. The students said the officials did not want to tell them.

Guyana has an Access to Information Act. However, there is a circus with the Government and the Commissioner of Information which continues to hinder implementation. It might be deliberate as there are many people who seem to fear public scrutiny. The young Chair of the GPHC Board described the unexpected decision of the MPs to go into the GPHC bond as ‘mischief’.

There might be other public spaces which have no problem with random visits by people or their ‘elected representatives’.

Access to Information is one of the things which is used to calculate the World Press Freedom Index.

The freedom of the press is linked to the public’s right to know and have access to information. In other words, the right to know about how fish glue and its uses apart from cocaine, and the costs associated with the Government distribution of kites. Or the exact nature of the mess with the shortage of drugs in the public health system and what is being done to reduce the shortages.

The World Press Freedom Index does not measure the quality of journalism. The index is prepared by Reporters Without Borders.

The people who calculate the index asked in the question sent to experts

“Is access to public information guaranteed by law?

1) Yes (1)

2) No (2)

3) Don’t know (99)”

Guyana would score Yes. There is no question or nuance of if there is any janjhat with the implementation of the law, or the effectiveness of the law.

The areas used to evaluate the 2017 are :-

  1. Pluralism –

  2. Media independence –

  3. Environment and self-censorship

  4. Legislative framework

  5. Transparency of institutions

  6. Infrastructure

  7. Level of abuse experienced by journalists

The Government of Guyana were not happy with the 2017 press freedom index. The Guyana Chronicle had an editorial asking Reporters without Borders to visit Guyana to interact with journalists and officials. The Chronicle editorial noted that is not Guyana alone that dropped in the index, but also “developed countries such as Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, “.

Reporters Without Borders did say that the 2017 index showed an “ increase in the number of countries where the media freedom situation is very grave and highlights the scale and variety of the obstacles to media freedom throughout the world.

The Chronicle editorial did not say though, that Trinidad and Tobago jumped 10 places in the Index. Or that Jamaica is eighth in the world for press freedom. Suriname also ranks high. Did the editorial writer know about about Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago ?

Interestingly, in December 2016, the Press Association of Jamaica has expressed concerns about Prime Minister Holness’ refusal to face the media. The Guyana Press Association had also expressed similar concerns about President Granger’s refusal to face the media.

It seems that press freedom rankings do not have much to do with how much the leaders of the country face the media.

So what is the difference between Jamaica and Guyana? There are no details in terms of how the experts answered the questions and what are the issues which make Jamaica so much better than Guyana and the other developed countries. How has this freedom of the press impacted on the ability of the Jamaica citizen to progress?

Reporters without Borders relies on ‘experts’ to provide answers to their questionnaires. There is no indication of how experts are identified by RWB. A cynical part of me wondered if the Jamaican and Trinidadian experts were united in ensuring that Jamaica and Trinidad internal dutty story is kept internal.

I am an ‘expert’ involved in another index with the V-Dem project. The project co-ordinators told me that I was recommended by a lecturer at the University of Guyana. They said my responses are statistically compared with others. I have to express degrees of confidence in the responses to the questions. I also have indicated that they could name me if they are asked who is involved in the project from Guyana. So I hope that there are are checks and balances involved in calculating indices.

Guyana’s Press Freedom Index was increasing until the drop this year. The chart below shows the trend. (

The chart is also visible on this link)

The data was taken from a wikipedia article.

What caused the drastic increase in ranking from 2008 to the highest it has ever been in 2009? And what caused the drop to 2010? Were different experts used to answer the questionnaire?

What has suddenly declined in Guyana as it relates to press freedom? What are the predictions as the Coalition Government gets more comfortable in office? What has to be done to improve the ranking? How important is this ranking to Guyana anyway? What are the specific things Guyana has to do to become on par with Jamaica in terms of press freedom? How can Guyana connect a higher ranking of press freedom with improving the quality of journalism? What is the role of citizens who are not journalists? Who has the answers to these questions?

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Team Stem Guyana working on their project for the Robot Olympics

By Vidyaratha Kissoon

It is a rainy Saturday afternoon. The Cliff Anderson Sports Hall is mostly closed. It is quiet – a change from the last time I visited for a steel band competition. There are some young people in one of the rooms. They are laughing and talking. Some of them are building a robot. Some are working on the programming for the robot. The young people are working on their robot for the “Global Robot Olympics”. It is not often that robotics would meet basketball. Karen Abrams, a former national basketball player is the motivation behind the the group’s participation in the Robot Olympics. She managed to bridge the robotics and the basketball space . The group found a secure space to prepare.

I know claustrophobia would have set in for me in the enclosed room. Fortunately, the young people are not bothered.

I remembered visiting a Robotics research institute in Bonn Germany. The building was built with glass walls and it was possible to see lots of trees outside. It looked like a nice place to do research and to think and develop things.

Guyana has lots of trees and open spaces. Guyana though, does not seem to have many places where people could easily gather to research, design, develop , and implement robots or other solutions. More money seems to be spent on flags than say on stimulating interest in science, technology and innovation.

In 2012, the Sports Hall was the venue for an excellent travelling exhibition of India’s scientific heritage heritage. The exhibition was prepared by the Government of India. One of the posters I remember was the one which detailed how India linked its current science and technology institutions with this heritage. Many countries have publicly funded institutes and councils which enable research, public education on science and technology , and adaptation.

National Science Research Council

Guyana in 1974. Cde LFS Burnham was in power. Jim Jones negotiated the lease for the lands in the Northwest for his People’s Temple. Walter Rodney returned to Guyana from Tanzania and formed the Working People’s Alliance.

The Parliament passed Act 26 of 1974 – The National Science Research Council Act. It must have been a normal thing to do as independent countries tried to harness appropriate technologies for development.

Something must have happened in Guyana’s history though to kill the council. There has been no talk of activating it . Like the Marriott, the Government seems to sustain the previous administration’s reluctance to support publicly funded research and innovation.

Jamaica has a publicly funded Scientific Research Council, and other institutes. Trinidad & Tobago has a National Science Centre . Both entities seem to be engaged with the public and are proactive in developing the appreciation for science and technology in the population.

IAST might be one of the research institutes which would have reported to the NSRC. There is not much information available on the mandate of IAST and what the public should expect from IAST.

NAREI which is focussed on agricultural research seems to be better organised and more accountable to the public.

Last week, Minister of State Joe Harmon shut down the discussion on the planting of industrial hemp. There was no spirit in the statement of inquiry or curiosity, there was no indication that the Government was open to learning.

Guyana born lecturer Samuel Braithwaite appealed in a response “Let’s continue the dialogue. Let’s advance the research. Let’s remove the legal hindrances. Let’s educate ourselves.  Let’s emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.”

NAREI might be the place to explore hemp cultivation. IAST could have been the place to research the derived products. A National Science Research Council would have had the oversight. Minister Harmon could then have deferred to the NSRC and sought advice before killing the idea.

Mahendra Doraisami wrote in 2014, of his frustrations as a young person studying science in a country which did not seem interested in developing the capacity to move beyond the primary exploitation of natural resources.

The young people in the room in the sports hall have received support from Government agencies and the private sector. The study of robotics is extensive. In order to sustain the interest and the good will generated by this initiative, it is time for Guyana to consider the activation of a National Science Research Council.

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Composite Image showing extracts from three different exhibitions in Georgetown, Guyana during 17th to 22 April, 2017

by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“You are not a regular Guyanese Indian, you must be from India..” the man said. He was smiling.

We were in the art gallery in Castellani House.

He thought I was one of the artists in the exhibition. We started talking about art in Guyana. The man lived overseas for most of his life.

We were surrounded by the exhibition ‘Ganga Ship 1917 : The long journey”.

The artists are descendants of the indentured immigrants from India.

“No, no, I have been here for generations.. “ I told the man, feeling a slight despair as I am constantly told I look foreign.

“Ah.. well maybe your family did not intermarry… maybe there was no mixing“ the man said.

He told me he was mixed with East Indian, Black and Amerindian.

Bernadette Persaud has a painting in the exhibition called Shiva, Kali and Che.

Che .. Cuban, mixed up in Guyana.

She has another installation about the closure of Wales Estate – a lamentation.

There are clothes and utensils on the floor below the painting. There is an arrangement. It is easy to imagine a body lying there, below the painting of Wales Estate.

There are other paintings about sugar and sugar cane.

Many of the descendants of the Indian immigrants are not connected to sugar any more. Some of the descendants use sugar as a political weapon.

There are other works about the Hindu religion.

There is a display of rangoli which adorns works by Betsy Karim.

Rangoli, made from rice. Rice is also in trouble like sugar.

There are no paintings about rum. Rum makes the news in Guyana in terms of how much Guyana is defined by rum.

Descendants of the immigrants from India and others make the news after consuming liquor and killing and attacking others.

The other narcotic which makes the news is marijuana. Marijuana makes the news because of the people, mostly poor people , who are sent to jail for using it or having possession of it.

There is never any news about anybody smoking marijuana (alone) and killing or maiming anyone.

Ganja seeds were apparently among the seeds in the ‘jahajibandal’ which some of the Indians brought on the ship.

There are no paintings about Ganja in the exhibition.

Did anyone bring Ganja on the Ganga ship?

420 at Cuffy square

The Square of the Revolution is across the road from room where the lamentation for Wales Estate is displayed.

Ganja was celebrated on Thursday 20th April and Friday 21st April at the Square of the Revolution.

Thursday apparently was for the herb and the intoxication from the herb. This was the Guyana “420” celebration.

There are no reports of police or other state interventions. The US Embassy did not issue any statementsl. Cannabis has been being legalised in different ways in states of the USA.

Friday it seems was about the usefulness of Hemp in other ways. The event was organised by the Guyana Hemp Society and others who are looking for ways , apart from oil, to seek prosperity in a green economy.

Hemp instead of sugar? Were there other seeds in that jahajibandal which could help?

The 1763 Monument is poised high above the Square of the Revolution across the road from Castellani House. The monument was designed by Phillip Moore. He did not want Cuffy to be so high and remote from the people.

My fear of Cuffy was alleviated by imagining different things from looking at Cuffy’s profile and what he has in his hands. (Go and see for yourself.. ) My fear of Cuffy was also alleviated by listening to Phillip Moore talk about his work and the intentions behind his work.

I learned from Phillip Moore when he talked about his work. He had deep spiritual beliefs. He also acknowledged the spiritual beliefs of all of the people in Guyana.

What would Phillip Moore think of the 1763 monument clouded in the smoke from the herb?


There is a pile of stones arranged in a circle in the gallery of the Museum of African Heritage. Inukshuk is the title. Inukchuk is from the indigenous/Amerindian/First Nation tradition of placing stones as markers.

Keith Agard, the artist, explained that his exhibition about human transformation uses Inukshuk to show the markings on a journey of spiritual transformation.

Keith Agard’s spirituality is inspired by Nicheren Buddhism. Each painting in the transformation series is associated with a text on a human value. The texts describe nice values which are aligned with peace.

Buddhism originated in India, but unlike the ganja seeds, did not come to the Caribbean with the Indian indentured immigrants or immigrants from other places where Buddhism is practices.

There is a portrait of President David Granger which overlooks the exhibition.

President Granger might appreciate the peaceful values at this time.

The President has to deal with Attorney General who feels that he does not have to apologise to Justice Holder. Justice Holder seems a reasonable man. He had asked for an apology, instead of charging the AG for contempt of court.

One of the real life Inukchuk in Guyana’s transformation would be the unreserved apology from Minister Basil Williams.

But the pile of stones it seems will only be in the Museum and in the dreams of the artist.

Artists in action: the making of collective paintings”

The Federation of Visual Artists of Suriname held an Art Expo in the Umana Yana. The artists represented the African, Indian, Chinese, and Javanese people. I might have missed other influences. On a hot Thursday afternoon, I walked in to see a Black woman, a Hindustani man, a woman of Chinese origins working on one painting.

Each artist probably had their own work in the exhibition. Each artist has their own style

Large benabs are meeting places in Amerindian villages in Guyana. The collective painting was a nice symbol, a nice inukchuk of what could be possible where individual action and collective action could co-exist.

Musicians also create across differences. Indus Voices did a musical rendition of Martin Carter’s ‘This is a dark time my love” .

It seems easy, practical, necessary for artists and musicians to move to collective action from time to time.

When will the rest of us engage in creative collective action which would realise the benefits of hemp and the find solutions to recover from the loss of sugar ?

How could we get to collective trans formative action which could make it a beautiful human thing for the Attorney General to apologise to Justice Holder?

Human transformation and the graphic resonance of creative form‘ by Keith Agard continues until Friday 28 April, 2017 at the Museum of African Heritage, Barima Avenue, Bel Air Park, Georgetown

Ganga Ship 1917 : the long journey” continues at Castellani House, Vlissengen Road, until Tuesday 9 May, 2017 (also open on Saturdays from 2pm to 6pm )


Update 24 April, 2017 : The Government of Guyana is not placing a high priority on industrial hemp according to the Minister of State. They remain concerned about the Narco-state reputation.