Luncheon tells Guyanese in Canada
No formal complaints brought against Gajraj
Guyana Chronicle
February 8, 2004

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`The administration’s position on the allegations being made against Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Ronald Gajraj is pretty straightforward. It all deals with procedures’.- Dr. Roger Luncheon

HEAD of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS) and Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon has told Guyanese living in Canada that no formal complaints have been lodged against Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj with regard to `Phantom Squad’ allegations levelled against the Minister by a self-confessed informant of the squad, Mr. George Bacchus.

“The administration’s position on the allegations being made against Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Ronald Gajraj is pretty straightforward. It all deals with procedures,” Dr. Luncheon told the overseas-based Guyanese at the Ramana Hotel in Toronto Thursday evening. Luncheon heads a three-member delegation now on a visit to Canada. Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security Dr. Dale Bisnauth and Culture, Youth and Sport Minister, Ms. Gail Teixeira, are the other members of the team which will also visit the United States of America on an outreach programme.

“What we have encountered over the last few weeks is pretty tenuous media and political allegations around the issue of the ministerial involvement with the `death squad’,” Dr. Luncheon said.

He pointed out that specific complaints have not been brought formally to the attention of the administration. Government is calling for persons with specific information and facts to come forward and provide these to the Police Force so that the necessary steps can be taken to deal with the allegations.

Reports are that a number of Guyanese in the Ramana Hotel gathering urged the government to stop acting on rumours and allegations since, in their view, some people are trying to destroy the reputation of particular individuals and the government.

Dr. Luncheon acknowledged that people have been killed and the Police Force has been unable to venture some explanation for these deaths. However, after investigations were conducted, it was concluded that some of the deaths were gang related. He added that there is no doubt that there are gang related crimes in Guyana, but such activities are present in other countries in the region. He emphasised that crime related issues are a major concern in the region. It was noted that criminal activities affect the economic development in Guyana. But this is a common problem in the region and the world at large.

The HPS also discussed the way in which some members of the Police Force are being criticised for the manner in which they perform their duties.

“In the advent of the Jagdeo presidency we have been pushing for the reform of the Guyana Police Force. Mr. Winston Felix will be sworn-in within a few days as the Commissioner of Police and deputy commissioners will also be appointed because of the administration’s commitment to reform,” said Dr. Luncheon. It was noted that top-notch Police Officers were sent for training in London where they examined forces in operation in democratic societies and how to deal with criminals.

The visiting team also brought Guyanese in Canada up-to-date with various developmental projects.

Berbice River bridge
Dr. Luncheon said that the promise made to Berbicians by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration to construct the bridge across the Berbice River will be fulfilled. He explained that financing the project is where the problem lies but pointed out that the Government is looking at its options.

The Cabinet Secretary noted that it is intended to be a joint public-private investment, but some investors who had indicated their interest are making big demands which the Government will not agree to. Some investors want the Government to stop the Transport and Harbours Department and other river transports across the Berbice River if the bridge is constructed, but Dr. Luncheon emphasised that the administration will not agree to such terms.

He said Government is exploring the idea of having a bridge like the Demerara Harbour Bridge across the Berbice River, because such technology can be adequate in the short-term, while a more permanent private investment will be secured.

Labour relations issues
When asked about the relationship between the Government and workers representatives, Dr. Luncheon explained that workers benefited from the many companies that have been privatised and received shares. He pointed out that some workers used their shares to continue in the privatised companies, like Guyana National Industrial Corporation (GNIC), while others used theirs to establish businesses. He said two labour unions in Guyana established a security firm and they are doing quite well. The security firm is providing some security services for some Government entities.

The Minister emphasised that Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is also a very important issue for the Government. He noted that several visits are made to factories and industries throughout the year to ensure that workers operate under the stipulated OHS rules and regulations.

“The debt relief we attained at the end of 2003, has reduced our debt servicing charges to about 20 per cent of revenue. We started out in 1992 with almost 100 per cent of revenue being dedicated to paying debit and interest charges on the debt,” said Dr. Luncheon. He added that the Government is now dealing with a bigger economy of about $46 billion and only 20 per cent of that is being used for debt servicing.

“This means that a considerable amount of our revenue can now be dedicated to a number of things including the expansion of our current budget, wages and salaries. And more maintenance can be done. With this additional saving on interest charges and payments we could indeed have a bigger public service investment project in the 2004 budget,” said Dr. Luncheon.

He added that the decisions are being made at present as to how the money should be spent to enhance the country. However, some of the money will be spent to further develop new housing schemes and squatter settlements that are under the regularisation programme. The HPS emphasised that at the end of 2003, Guyana comfortably met the necessary targets which paved the way for continuing concessionary financing from all of the major donor agencies.

Minister Teixeira enlightened the gathering about the massive housing drive in Guyana which provided over 50,000 persons with house lots. She noted that people are now receiving land titles which many of them are using to access low-income loans from the commercial banks to construct their houses.

The new housing schemes are established throughout the country and infrastructural projects are implemented to provide the basic services to residents. Roads, drainage and water networks are being implemented in all the housing schemes. (GINA)