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Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Headlines from Guyana Chronicle

President declares:
No plan for interim government
-- if Aug 4 deadline not met
PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo has declared that there is no plan for an interim government if the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) fails to hold general elections by the August 4 constitutional deadline.

“If it goes beyond that date through no fault of ours -- the Constitution is clear -- the government remains in office until elections are held. We don't have any intention of having any interim government in Guyana,” the President said in New York.

Reports of a constitutional crisis and talk of a possible interim government surfaced recently with reports that GECOM was looking at proposed draft revised plans to postpone the elections to September.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the main partner in the governing PPP/Civic alliance has, however, stressed that GECOM can hold the elections well ahead of the constitutional deadline.

Major western aid donors to Guyana have also said that GECOM can meet the deadline.

A report by the Government Information Agency (GINA) said that at a news briefing Sunday, Mr. Jagdeo indicated that one of the biggest challenges the country faces is the conduct of elections in a free and fair manner, and before the constitutionally due date of August 4, 2006.

He said he was pleased with the statement last week by the international donor community that GECOM has no excuse for not meeting this deadline since the government has provided all the necessary resources required by GECOM.

“This year alone we have made over US$15 million available to the commission to conduct these elections,” the President said at a press conference at the Holiday Inn, JFK Airport, in Queens.

GINA said he told the media that for the past 18 months, his government has witnessed attempts by the political opposition to delay the elections.

Guyana is the first country in which the opposition is reluctant to have elections while the incumbent is eager to hold those elections by the constitutionally due date, he told the packed media conference.

On the high-powered weapons lost by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), President Jagdeo said these were apparently smuggled out of the Army base within a particular period around Mashramani.

GINA said he stressed that the loss of the weapons at this time seems sinister.

"These guns were taken from the Army for one of two purposes: either for criminal activities or to spread political fear among people," he said.

The President, the agency reported, said the Army will follow every trail in its attempts to retrieve its weapons even if these lead to drug dealers in the country, criminals in Buxton, or to political links.

The Army and Police are continuing intensive joint search operations for the 33 AK-47 rifles and five pistols reported stolen from a storage bond in the GDF Camp Ayanganna headquarters in Georgetown.

GINA said Mr. Jagdeo also alluded to the taped conversation purportedly between Commissioner of Police Winston Felix and a senior member of the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), saying the matter was still under discussion.

The President, GINA reported, said the commissioner has denied that he was one of the persons whose voice was recorded in the conversation.

Mr. Jagdeo said if, however, the voice was that of Mr. Felix, then it would be very unprofessional of the Commissioner of Police to have held such a conversation, the agency added.

"I have not asked the commissioner to resign at this point in time," the President said.

After his 20-minute opening statement, he entertained questions from the media on issues ranging from the contract signing for the Berbice River Bridge, which is expected in two weeks, to the hope that Guyana may witness a resumption of offshore oil exploration by next year.

GINA said he also explained the potential that information technology holds for creating 25,000 jobs for Guyanese; the expected US$1 billion investment in bauxite; and the country's ongoing construction of its first cricket stadium and its general preparedness to host Cricket World Cup 2007 matches.

Media referees on exploratory visit

MEDIA REFEREES: Mr. Lennox Grant, addressing members of the media yesterday at Cara Lodge. Flanking him are, left, Mr. Tim Neale, Commonwealth Media Advisor to the Guyana Elections Commission, and Ms Wyvolyn Gager, the other referee. (Cullen Bess-Nelson photo)

THE two members of the independent media refereeing panel for the upcoming general elections said yesterday they want to be viewed as partners in the process of rethinking, reforming and re-energising the local media landscape.

The referees, journalists Lennox Grant and Wyvolyn Gager, who met signatories to the Media Code of Conduct, said they will dedicate their efforts to leave an impression that would last long after the narrow elections time frame would have concluded.

Mr. Grant and Ms Gager of Trinidad and Jamaica, respectively, are on an exploratory visit here.

Yesterday morning, they met at Cara Lodge, Quamina Street, Georgetown, signatories of what they described as the “ambitious”, “admirable and highly respected” Media Code of Conduct. Media representatives signed the code in January.

“The code is an admirable and highly respectable document, even more so is the process that led to its signing - the coming together of the Guyanese media principals to make a collective pledge to pursue excellence,” Grant said in a statement.

The referees told the local media representatives that they consider their work as one of the steps towards realising the objectives of the code. In addition, they pointed out, Guyana’s political and civic health, its stability and economic viability are matters of importance to the rest of the Caribbean.

“We come with minds that are (as) open as can be and as far as possible for veteran journalists, without cynicism, and we have to make a difference,” Grant stressed on behalf of the duo.

Though they will be scrutinising the media in the run-up to elections, Grant said the most important and effective media referees are the local listeners, readers and viewers.

Grant and Gager are to return in May, and by June they will take up residence until elections are concluded.

Olive Gopaul creates stir in Botanical Gardens
MISS Guyana World 2001 Olive Gopaul created a stir, even though acting dead, in the Botanical Gardens, Georgetown yesterday.

Miss Gopaul was filming for a part in the romantic comedy `Rainbow Raani’, when passers-by thought she had hung herself and called the Police.

In the movie, she plays the role of a young woman who commits suicide after having problems at home. The hanging figure, which created some level of pandemonium, was actually a mannequin.

Gopaul is among a list of Guyanese lined up to play a part in the movie which is being produced by former Liberty Cinema boss, Mr. Pradeep Samtani.

Plot under way to delay elections
-- PPP claims
THE People’s Progressive Party (PPP) last night charged that the Operations Department of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was attempting to engineer a delay in general elections due by August 4 this year.

The claim by the main partner in the governing PPP/Civic (PPP/C) alliance followed a crucial statutory GECOM meeting which looked at a draft revised plan that originally projected postponing the elections.

There was no official word on the outcome of that meeting but the PPP said GECOM did not entertain a submission by its technical personnel “which has established that general elections could be held within the constitutionally due date.”

“It must be recalled that our general conclusion on the timeline for election is consistent with the latest report of the Joint International Technical Assessors (JITA)”, the party said.

The PPP said it was “dismayed that there is now another attempt by the Operations Department of GECOM to engineer a delay in the holding of elections outside of the constitutionally due date by way of another proposal on a revised elections timetable.”

There was no reaction from GECOM on the charge but the Guyana Chronicle understands the Operations Department of the commission is now projecting that elections can be held by September 18, some two months beyond the date forecast by others.

“It seems as if elements in the Operations Department are falling prey to the PNCR…campaign of bullyism and threats”, the PPP contended.

It said GECOM must not give into the “opposition’s blackmailing to push elections beyond the constitutionally due date.”

Army takeover of house:
Felix, deputy named in contempt proceedings
POLICE Commissioner Winston Felix and his Deputy Henry Greene are expected in court this afternoon to show why they should not be committed to prison for contempt of court.

This follows their ignoring an order issued by High Court Judge William Ramlal last Friday calling on members of the Police Force and the Army to remove from a house at 24 Bel Air Gardens in the city where they had set up a military camp.

The contempt of court claim was made by Ricardo Rodrigues, accusing the Police chief of allowing members of the Police and the Army to continue residing at the house.

An affidavit in support of the motion by Mario Rodrigues, father of the plaintiff, had complained about the presence of strangers at his son’s home where there is a military camp and had asked the court for a conservatory order directing the Commissioner of Police, the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force and the Head of the Defence Board from occupying and or attempting to occupy the property, and from destroying or attempting to destroy the property.

When the application requesting contempt proceedings came up for hearing yesterday in open court, lawyer Nigel Hughes, for the applicant, read a letter from Deputy Commissioner Greene which said that the Police are prepared to hand over the building to the owner or to any other person properly identified, and lawfully authorised in writing.

In response to the letter from the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Hughes, in a letter, had said in part, “We are of the opinion that the Order of Court is particularly clear in import. We also wish to refer you to the contents of paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 of the plaintiff’s affidavit which clearly indicate that the property was in the possession of the contractors, who were effecting civil works thereto, at the time of the arrival of and occupation by your officers.

“We have been informed by the contractors that the civil works are incomplete and they are keen to honour their contractual obligations to the plaintiff without incurring further penalty.

“Regrettably, the continued occupation of the plaintiff’s premises after the service of the order on you has placed the plaintiff’s contractors in considerable danger of incurring further penalties under their agreement with the plaintiff.

“We have noted your concern for the protection and preservation of our client’s property, but we believe that the further violation of a court order may place the Guyana Police Force in a position of some considerable embarrassment while at the same time exposing the Commissioner to penalties for contempt of the aforementioned order. A prospect we would all rather avoid. We look forward to the immediate vacation of the premises by your officers. Yours faithfully, Hughes , Fields & Stoby. C. A. Nigel Hughes.”