YEAR IN REVIEW
The Year in Review
January 11, 2004
|Related Links:||Articles on stuff|
|Letters Menu||Archival Menu|
Politics and government
The early part of 2003 saw the PNCR dealing with the aftermath of Mr Hoyte's death, and working out the ramifications for the future of the party. The year began with Dr Joseph confirming that Hoyte had died of a heart attack (Jan 3), and a month later, Mr Robert Corbin, who had been acting leader of the party ad interim, was confirmed in the post following an election at a special delegates' congress (Feb 2).
In his speech to congress, Corbin advocated shared governance, which he said was not a substitute for winning an election, "but... the mechanism to provide for institutional arrangements which can guarantee the participation and involvement of all citizens... irrespective of the party in government" (Feb 2).
While both parties peppered their speeches with the term 'shared governance' in the first two months, they meant different things by it - the PNCR referring specifically to shared government, and the PPP/C to a vaguer concept of inclusiveness.
Even before Corbin's election, President Jagdeo had said that power-sharing at the level of the executive was a recipe for gridlock, and that the opposition party needed first to make it work at the level of the legislature (Jan 30). This message was reinforced in the formal setting of State House, when a week after the PNCR congress, Jagdeo said that no contrived system of government such as "executive power sharing" could succeed where there was an absence of trust and good faith between the parties (Feb 9).
A team of economists from the IMF and World Bank was less dismissive of the idea, however, suggesting in a paper dated March 19, that power-sharing mechanisms be embraced to secure a peaceful political environment (April 6).
For all their differences on the structure of government, the President and Opposition Leader nevertheless managed a rapprochement during the first half of the year. In his speech to congress Corbin had said that he was ready for constructive engagement, while Jagdeo a few minutes after Corbin's election invited him to a meeting; the new Leader of the Opposition accepted (Feb 2,3,4).
A joint communiqué between the President and PNCR leader was signed on May 6, encompassing a range of issues, and setting forth a clear timetable for their resolution. These included a single plan for the revival of Linden; broadcasting legislation and equitable access to the state media; PNCR representation on state boards, etc; a further $60M for previously identified depressed communities; an authority to monitor land and house-lot distribution; and local government reform (May 7).
Jagdeo and Corbin were to meet again in June, and agree on additional measures, including a monitoring mechanism (June 13,20).
There was some progress too on other fronts, with the two approving the format of parliamentary committees, the establishment of the Management Committee of Parliament, the approval by the National Assembly of the critical appointive committee and the appointing of members to the sectoral committees (May 3,9).
The PNCR returned to the National Assembly in February after an absence of eleven months. Parliament had been convened at Corbin's request to consider a motion on the electricity crisis, political, social and economic problems, and the crime scourge. A ten-hour debate, however, yielded nothing (February 15,18,20,21). The following month the main opposition party did not attend Minister Saisnarine Kowlessar's budget speech, which was noisily interrupted by PNCR protestors outside the chamber at the Ocean View Convention Centre (March 29).
The PPP/C used its majority in the house in the first half of the year to push through two pieces of legislation, portions of which had generated expressions of concern from interested professional groups, as well as from the opposition. The first was the Kidnapping Bill, to which the government did subsequently make amendments, but to which they added a clause that other parties found problematic; it was passed on June 5 (May 20; June 6). The second was the revised Procurement Bill, passed on June 19, causing the PNCR to walk out of the sitting (June 20).
Where purely party political issues were concerned, the PNCR's new leader visited the besieged community of Annandale in February, and Strathspey in April, while the party expressed itself in support of declaring Indian Arrival Day a national holiday (February 7; April 8; May 4).
At a PNCR retreat, the emphasis was on the economic pressures facing citizens (February 27), and the approach was adopted that the root causes of crime must be tackled. While the party's general secretary made an acknowledgement in April that Buxton had been a haven for crime, in keeping with the party line, stress was placed on improving the economic lot of the residents there. In February, Corbin had told them to lift themselves out of the economic quagmire, and in order to help them do this, a PNCR poultry project was inaugurated, with assistance from Bounty Farms (February 8; April 26; May 9).
On the government side, we ran a story in June saying that Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy and another minister were resigning, which was followed by one stating that Ramsammy had tendered his resignation and had then withdrawn it. He expressed himself unhappy with this newspaper's headlines, but the Stabroek News stood by its story. Towards the end of the month an announcement was made that Minister of Agriculture Navin Chandarpal had resigned. When the year closed he had still not been replaced (June 10,11,12,25).
If there were no major changes in the cabinet in 2003 - Chandarpal excepted - the Permanent Secretaries in several of the ministries did find themselves reshuffled (June 12).
Crime: gunmen, banditry, etc
Law enforcement losses
The beginning of the year was not an easy one for the law enforcement agencies, who lost several of their members to the bullets of the criminal fraternity.
The shootings began with the death of a CID constable in Main street (January 3); the gunning down of a TSU constable in Bent street (January 4); an armed attack on the Ruimveldt outpost which resulted in injury to four persons, including a rural constable (January 4); the death of a CANU officer as he entered his home in Agricola (January 6); the killing of a policman during a patrol in Buxton (January 9); the shooting to death of a policeman in a mini-bus in Croal street, and the wounding of another in Festival City in what was clearly an ambush (January 14); the wounding of a detective constable in Croal street (January 21); the slaying of a constable in Sophia (January 31); the killing in Buxton of a policeman who had tendered his resignation out of fear for his life (February 4); and the death of an off-duty police officer at the hands of a bandit in a mini-bus which had stopped in Buxton. The conductor of the bus subsequently also died, and one of the alleged bandits was critically injured (February 23,24).
Nearly two months later, an off-duty member of the Presidential Guard was shot and killed by bandits while working as a conductor on a mini-bus which similarly had stopped in Buxton (April 14); towards the end of April, a policeman's daughter was seriously injured by a gunman in Victoria (April 28); and another constable was shot dead in Sophia early the following month. One of the three men implicated was charged with the officer's murder, another - Paul Pindleton - was to be killed later in the year in Suriname, and the third was thought to have escaped to Canada (May 6,9,14). The first soldier to lose his life as a consequence of gun crime was killed in a Buxton raid during which two gunmen died as well (May 16).
Beleaguered citizens in the city and on the lower East Coast who were hoping for some relief from crime in 2003, were not to have their wish granted; in the first six months the situation actually deteriorated. Among other things, the incessant attacks on front-line villages like Annandale, Strathspey and Vigilance caused some residents to abandon their homes altogether (January 20,21; February 17). The security forces inaugurated what they called 'Operation Saline Solution II,' early in January to counter the crime wave, but it produced few results until the middle of the year.
The tone was set on the first day of the New Year, when the pressroom of Kaieteur News was torched by gunmen, although within two days the paper was back in print.
The month proceeded with the employee of a car-dealership being shot in the neck (January 8); attacks by armed gangs on gas stations in the city (January 10); a raid on a third gas station the following day (January 11); robberies on bus passengers passing through Buxton (January 11); two men being shot dead by single gunmen - one in East Ruimveldt after an altercation, and the other in Albouystown (January 13); gunmen killing a woman and seriously injuring her son in Agricola (Jaunary 14,15); the robbing of an Annandale shopkeeper, and the shooting of another villger in the head - he was to die subsequently (January 18,19); the discovery of the body of a taxi-driver who had been shot, in Tucville (January 18,19); the invasion of Vigilance homes by a Buxton youth gang, which villagers said was an almost weekly occurrence (January 19); the murder of a Better Hope businessman by bandits after he had appealed to them to stop beating his wife (January 20); another attack on Annandale (January 20); and the torching of a car by three armed men in Enterprise, while its owner fled for his life (January 20).
The crime of the month, however, which was reminiscent of the attack on Natoo's bar the previous year, was a raid by at least two carloads of armed bandits on two beer gardens in Ketley street, which resulted in the shooting to death of two people (including the owner of one of the businesses) and the wounding of eight. One of the injured was to die subsequently in hospital. The question was asked after the attack as to why the gunmen had not been intercepted by the police and army when they had returned up the East Coast from the city.
Three months later arrest warrants were issued for Shawn Brown, Romel Reman and Christopher Belle in connection with the crime, and in June, the police said that Shawn Brown's gun had been used at Ketley street (January 23,24,25,27; April 11; June 11).
Two days later bandits shot a man who was sitting outside a store they had robbed in Better Hope (January 25); a man was found dead with gunshot wounds on the Annandale public road; and the body of a man found on the Buxton public road a few days previously was identified as that of an Albouystown resident (January 28). An internet cafe was robbed by three armed men on January 27 (January 29), and a Sophia man was shot dead two days later (January 30). At the end of the month the Government decided to block the bridges leading into Buxton/Friendship from the neigbouring villages, which residents of the latter were later to claim had made Annandale somewhat safer (January 30; March 17).
The second month of the year opened with a report on a group of miners, including Brazilians, complaining to the Prime Minister
about the increasing incidence of violent crime in the interior, which included the murder of a Brazilian miner during the course of a robbery (February 1).
A few days later, gunmen forced the Buxton Islamic Centre to close, and bandits raided a Sophia grocery (February 7). A Lodge man and a passer-by were injured by gunmen the following day (February 8), while the month continued on its bloody way with an Annandale man shot in the arm (February 12); an armed gang attacking Annandale again (February 13); armed bandits robbing a West Coast family (February 14); an explosive device being thrown at UG fence (February 14); an attempt being made by gunmen to break into a Palmyra house (February 15); a Melanie lumberyard being robbed - since this was not the first time, the owner relocated (February 18,28); the discovery of the body of a Sophia man who had been shot (February 20); the waylaying and robbery of commuters by Buxton youths after the burial of a wanted man (February 20); the robbing of commuters in Friendship by five men wielding AK-47s, who then fired on the army patrol which responded, but who escaped with the assistance of villagers (February 22); and the gunning down of two men in Albouystown, whose bodies were then set ablaze (February 23).
There was no relief in March. The month kicked off with four bandits robbing a Ruimveldt bakery (March 2); gunmen robbing La Penitence goldsmiths (March 5); the battering down of the door of a Tucville home by bandits who made off with cash and goods (March 14); the discovery of the bullet-riddled body of an Alberttown man in Buxton (March 18,20); the gunning down of Buxton gas-station owner Brian Hamilton - the two men who entered his office prior to the shooting being caught on security tape (March 22,26; April 2,12,9); the body of another gunshot victim being found at Turkeyen (March 24; April 10); the shooting of a Friendship man in Bel Air village (March 26,27); the holding-up of a mail van in Friendship by two armed bandits, and the robbery of a delivery truck by a Buxton gang (March 27); the commission of a robbery on the Wismar-Mackenzie ferry (March 28); yet another armed robbery committed on construction workers in Annandale (March 30); and the robbing of some Berbice fishermen by masked gunmen (March 31).
The new dimension to the crime situation in the first half of 2003, as compared to the previous year, was the frequency of the kidnappings. A Guysuco pump operator at Strathspey was the first to be kidnapped for the month, but he was released after promising to pay a ransom which in the end was not paid (January 17,18); while a family which had been held hostage after their car was ambushed on the lower East Coast, was released after a ransom had been paid (January 17). A Brickdam student foiled the attempt of two men to kidnap him (January 21), and not long after, Annandale villagers rescued a teenager who had been seized by an armed gang. Villagers alleged that the army had declined to chase the kidnappers (January 22).
Two months later, Dev Sharma, the Director of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry was abducted in Agricola, but succeeded in escaping from his Buxton captors a few hours later. He told this newspaper that he had been tortured because he refused to beg for his life, and that his captors had threatened to set him alight (March 7,9,11).
The abduction of a child from Strathspey Primary School was frustrated some two weeks later, which subsequently produced demonstrations on the part of Strathspey residents against the army, which they claimed had not chased the kidnappers. They also refused to send their children to school (March 20,21,25).
A Non Pariel businessman was the next victim. He was subsequently released by his captors, although the family never revealed whether a ransom had been paid, despite the fact that it was known that one had been demanded (March 24,25). A few days later it was the turn of a Trinidadian engineer, who was seized by a Buxton gang of about fifteen armed men, while working for Guyana Water Inc. He was released some time later after a ransom of $3M had been handed over (March 28). A second Trinidadian was to be kidnapped the following month, who was also released subsequently. It was following this second incident that the pipe-laying exercise along the East Coast was halted (April 9,12).
On April 11, three gunmen abducted a Mon Repos man, for whom a $10M ransom was demanded, but he succeeded in escaping his captors later that night, shortly before the deadline for payment expired (April 12). The public had no time to absorb this before the next morning news came of the kidnapping of Stephen Lesniak, the Regional Security Officer attached to the US embassy in Georgetown, from the golf course at Lusignan. He was held in houses and a church in Buxton, and his kidnappers spoke on the phone to his mother in the US, from whom they demanded US$300,000. A sum of $12M was said to have eventually been paid over by his friends, and he was released after dark the same day.
Agents from the US State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, together with nine agents from the FBI were flown into the country following the kidnapping, and in June the US issued a warrant for Shawn Brown's arrest in connection with it (April 13,14,15,18,23,25,26; May 11; June 5).
That was not the end of the kidnappings; a Ruimveldt boy who had been abducted was subsequently found dead at Liliendaal (April 15,16,17), although in another case, abductors bungled the kidnapping of a businesswoman in Sheriff street and she escaped. Members of a private security service later shot dead one of the kidnappers in Kitty after a car chase (April 16).
A Coldingen family were the next victims, who dismantled their home and fled the area after three gunmen attempted to kidnap a child from their household (April 17). A De Hoop, Mahaica, businessman was also fortunate, since after being snatched from his home on May 13, he was rescued by the army after several failed attempts on May 17. Buxton residents cheered after he was brought out, while four men were arrested (May 16,17,18). Relatives paid a ransom for another Mahaica man - a taxi-driver - who was seized in May, but who was not released (May 20).
Echoing criticisms of some East Coast residents of the army's response to crime, the President himself publicly expressed himself unhappy with the GDF's crime tactics, and ordered a review of both police and army operations. A few days later we carried a report that senior officers in the defence force had expressed concern about the Commander-in-Chief's statements, which the GDF officially denied the following day (January 24,28,29).
In April, Jagdeo repeated his criticisms of the security forces, and the following week the army denied disobeying legitimate orders from the civilian authorities. A few days later it also dismissed charges of making selective arrests following remarks from Minister Gajraj in a television interview (April 27,30). The following month Jagdeo blocked the promotion of the Camp Buxton commander, and recalled him from an overseas training course (May 11, 15, 28), while Chief-of-Staff Michael Atherly expressed himself concerned about the politicization of the army (May 13).
While the month of April had the usual diet of gun crime, it began to become evident that another group was emerging in Buxton itself, which was challenging the original criminal fraternity.
The month began in customary fashion with a report on two bullet-riddled bodies being found, one in Annandale and the other at the back of the Botanical Gardens (April 1,2). In addition, in what was becoming almost standard practice, a bus was waylaid in Buxton and the commuters robbed.
The same day a Kitty businessman was shot dead; the home of a Friendship man was set alight; and a US-based Guyanese who had returned for a holiday was shot and robbed (April 3).
It was after this that the turf war in Buxton came to public notice, with a youth being shot dead, two others injured and two houses being torched. In one of the houses which was subsequently burnt, the army found an AK-47, various calibre ammunition, communications equipment and molotov cocktails (April 5).
The gang war continued, with four more bodies being found the following day, an 87-year-old deacon being shot on the church steps in Buxton, the home of Shawn Brown's parents in Kitty being set on fire, and two Comfort Zone taxis being torched (April 6,7).
The body of another Buxton man turned up in Annandale two days after that (April 8), while the Blue Iguana bar in Alberttown was raked with gunfire and a grenade was lobbed into it. There were no injuries (April 9).
Wanted man Christopher Belle turned up dead on a chair under a house in Buxton on April 14, his body riddled with bullet holes (April 15). Some days later the body of a second wanted man, Shawn Gittens, was found on a makeshift stretcher in the same village. He had been shot seven times as punishment, so it was reported, for his continued assaults on women in the village after being warned to desist (April 24).
The killing of innocent citizens continued on April 21 with the shooting to death of a 17-year-old boy by two gunmen posing as customers in a Chinese restaurant. The incident happened in Agricola, and the boy was the son of the proprietor. Easter Monday too saw the shooting of a man at the UG fair after he intervened in a dispute; he died subsequently (April 23).
A few days later, gunmen robbed an Eccles store, and a bullet-riddled body which had mysteriously been left at the hospital on April 14 was identified as that of a Melanie man (April 25). On April 26 we reported that there had been 142 murders in 2002, and 58 for the first three months of 2003.
The month ended with four bandits attacking a Guysuco field supervisor, which had the inevitable consequence of making workers for the sugar company reluctant to go into the fields (April 30).
The body of a Wismar taxi-driver bearing a single gunshot wound was found near Camp Groomes on the Linden-Soesdyke highway (May 3); three men were killed and seven persons injured after two carloads of gunmen opened fire on a group of persons 'liming' at a corner in Albouystown. Residents said that the cars had police connections, although this was denied by the GPF, which claimed there had been an exchange of fire between the group and the gunmen. Some reports suggested that the shoot-out may have started in Laing avenue, East La Penitence (May 6).
The killings continued with the shooting to death by bandits of an East Bank businessman (May 8); and a barman being shot and killed at a highway resort. Following this a businessman was charged with his murder and then the charges were dropped (May 10,20,22); a chain-snatcher was shot by unknown persons (May 10); gunmen killed a hotel owner in Agricola (May 13,14); the bound body of a Covent Garden shop-owner was found behind Annandale (May 14,21); an East Bank mini-bus was held up by one armed robber and four others (May 15); still another body bearing gunshots wounds was found at Turkeyen (May 20); in the midst of a robbery at Tuschen, a bandit was shot accidentally by his accomplice (May 26,27); a La Penitence man was stalked and shot dead by a lone gunman (May 27); a West Demerara man was injured by a gun-toting assailant (May 28); a butcher found a baretta sub-machine gun in the Municipal Abattoir, causing some consternation among the workers; another body was found on the Bush Lot road (May 30; June 3); a man was gunned down in Prashad Nagar; and yet another body was found on the Windsor Forest road (May 31).
The tide turns
The month of June saw some relief from the siege for ordinary citizens. The security services had scored some minor successes even before this: CANU had held two men with a submachine gun and ammunition in January (January 28); the police had shot dead two men at an Ogle roadblock, who had guns and ammunition in their car, and one of whom was a Trinidadian wanted in his homeland - although it must be said the circumstances of the shooting were disputed (January 11,12,15,17); three had been held for the murder of a Brazilian miner in February (February 2); a deportee involved in an accident had been found to have in his possession a baretta and ammo (February 6); four men had been apprehended after an armed robbery in Rosehall (February 18); two teens had been held by the army in Annandale after they had discharged a loaded firearm at a man (April 23); and the Linden police had killed a bandit during a shoot-out after an eight-man gang had raided a mining camp at Konawaruk (May 6).
In the middle of May, the army and police began more frequent forays into Buxton/Friendship. An operation carried out by a joint patrol there culminated in the arrest of four men in relation to two motorcycles of dubious provenance, while one man was shot and injured during the exercise (May 19); the following day, the army and police searched 89 houses in the village (May 20); in another joint search a Buxton gunman was shot dead after firing on the patrol (May 21); and the day after that six men were arrested in a sweep of the community (May 22).
At the end of the month they turned their attention further eastwards, holding a suspect in a dawn raid in Victoria (May 30); and arresting seven in raids on Bare Root homes (May 31). At the beginning of June, a man wanted by the police for armed robbery and the murder of three policemen was shot dead by unknown assailants (June 3,4).
The beginning of the end came early in the morning of June 4, when six men were killed in what the police said was a shoot-out with a joint GDF-GPF contingent. Among the six was wanted man Romel Reman, as well as a fifteen-year-old community high school student and a man thought to have been a Brazilian escapee. A fourth man came from Buxton, another from Albouystown, while the last was a seventeen-year-old from Agricola. In a press release, the Guyana Human Rights Association raised questions about the intent and methods employed in the operation (June 5,6,25).
It was our edition of June 6 which blared the news that Shawn Brown, his brother-in-law and a third man had been shot dead in a shoot-out with the police and army in Prashad Nagar. The afternoon siege lasted two hours, during which grenades were lobbed at the security forces. Two policemen and a civilian were injured in the exchange of fire (June 6,7).
With the death of Brown, only one of the Mash Day escapees was left. This was Troy Dick, who had been charged with the Rose Hall killings in March, and whom the security forces said they believed was hiding out in the city (March 31; June 9). A few days later, the police called on Dick, as well as five others who were described as part of the Buxton "criminal enterprise" to surrender; only one of them responded - Ivor Glen - who turned himself in on the West Bank a few days later. Another of the men, Anthony Charles, was captured in Buxton during a joint operation (June 7,12,15,18); and an army patrol arrested three men including a Linden police constable after two automatic pistols and 23 rounds of ammunition were found on their persons. It was subsequently revealed that the car in which they were travelling was registered to an overseas Guyanese (June 16,17).
This did not bring a total halt to the banditry for the month, although the decline was precipitous and some residents who had fled their homes in the frontline villages started to return (June 23). Bandits robbed a Corentyne supermarket, killing a man (June 9); gunmen hijacked a taxi in Agricola (June 12,13); and a man was chased in Charlotte street by gunmen in a car, who shot him as he tried to hide in a yard (June 30).
The Buxton criminal enterprise, as it was dubbed by the police, obscured the more commonplace, but no less disturbing and often violent crime in the society. The incidence of domestic violence, in particular, did not abate, as the mother of two who was chopped to death by a man in April, the woman who was shot dead in May, and the female guard who was bludgeoned to death in June, among others, demonstrated (April 28; May 29; June 30). A matter which was never clarified was the circumstances surrounding the stabbing of a five-year-old in the neck. She died of complications following an operation (May 8,10).
On January 22 we reported that two men had appeared in court charged with the murder of Guyana United Sad'r Anjuman orphanage inmate Abdool Rahim, who had been killed in December of the year before. One of them was the chief executive officer of the institution. In the same edition, we reported Minister Bibi Shadick as saying that instances of abuse and child labour had been uncovered at the orphanage, although this was disputed by the Anjuman.
In a case of white-collar crime, $14M was stolen between May and October during the Old Age Pension scam, according to the interim report of the Office of the Auditor General. It was later reported that the three persons suspected of perpetrating the scam had fled the jurisdiction (January 1).
The evidence of large-scale narcotics trafficking could not be avoided. In addition, a seemingly endless parade of foreign nationals appeared in the local courts after having been caught at the airport attempting to export cocaine. One of these was hospitalised after swallowing fifteen packets of the drug allegedly for the purposes of trafficking (May 19).
Of greater public interest, however, was the news that former Miss Guyana Universe Mia Rahaman had been detained in Toronto after four kilogrammes of a substance believed to be cocaine had been found in her luggage. She was charged in a Canadian court and was later given bail (May 22,23,24; June 14).
Far more embarrassing for the nation was the discovery of 75 pounds of marijuana aboard the GDF flagship which was participating in Exercise Tradewinds in Barbados at the time. It had to be recalled to Port Georgetown, and three soldiers were said to have been implicated (May 15,17).
The biggest drugs haul of the first half of the year, was the 120 kilos of cocaine worth $1.9B in a UK lumber shipment originating in Guyana. Seven people were charged in connection with the find in Wales, and these appeared in a Caerphilly court, but when the year closed, no charges had been brought locally (June 10,11,14,28).
In a kidnapping unconnected with the Buxton situation, a Lethem hotel owner was taken off a bus in Brazil en route to Manaus. Four men were detained by the police in that country in relation to his disappearance, and eventually his body was found (June 26,28,29,30).
Two clearly inexperienced carjackers were arrested by the Linden police after they had hijacked a taxi and dumped its driver on the highway having given him $500 for the fare home. They were later discovered to be AWOL soldiers (March 17,18). The following month $3M was discovered to be missing from the vault at Timehri, and some Customs officers were arrested and placed on station bail pending the outcome of a police investigation (April 29,30; May 1).
Of more interest to the American authorities than the local ones was the matter of the al Qaeda suspect whose father was Guyanese and who was the holder of a Guyanese passport - possibly along with other passports. Later in the year it was said by the FBI that he had had pilot's training (March 22,27; April 7).
Despite the disbandment of the Target Special Squad, controversy still dogged the police in relation to their use of force against some citizens. On the first day of the new year we reported on a man shot by the police in questionable circumstances who subsequently died, and on the same day the wounding of a mugger hiding in the bush.
Another suspected mugger was injured in a shoot-out with the police (January 3); a suspect in the ambush of a policeman in Lodge was shot dead by members of the force in disputed circumstances (January 4); officers shot dead two gunmen at an Ogle checkpoint (January 11,12,5,17, see above); a man was wounded after an alleged scuffle in a police vehicle (January 14); two robbers were shot dead by the police in a bathroom stall in Werk-en-Rust; wanted man Hoofman Lall was shot dead by the GPF in Water street in circumstances on which the authorities and witnesses were not agreed (January 21); a Friendship man wanted for the killing of an Annandale retired teacher, was shot dead and several residents slightly injured when police opened fire in the village (January 22); two men died in separate incidents after confrontations with officers, and another was wounded (January 27,29); a policeman shot dead a handcuffed man who attacked him with a broken bottle in Rose Hall, although 'B' Division Commander Paul Slowe said he was prepared to investigate allegations of police wrongdoing if witnesses would come forward (January 28; February 5); and an eighteen-year-old was killed by members of the GPF outside St Andrews Kirk when eyewitnesses said he had his hands in the air (January 29).
The following month a police party shot dead two wanted men in Avenue of the Republic (February 9); and some days later two more at an Ogle road block one of whom, they said, was linked to thirteen murders (February 14,15,). At the end of the month ranks killed a Berbice prison escapee after he fired on them (March 1); while on the first day of March the police opened fire on a group of UG students and basketball players in a car in Campbellville, mortally wounding Yohance Douglas and injuring two others, one of them (Ronson Grey) seriously. The students were unarmed and not engaged in any illegal activity, and the incident caused a public outcry. Eventually two officers - Mahendra Baijnauth and Gerald Alonzo - were charged with the murder of Yohance Douglas and one with the additional charge of attempted murder. The government subsequently paid for Grey to go to the US for surgery (March 2,3,4,5,7,8,12,13,18,21,29; June 10).
In the middle of the month a would-be thief brandishing a toy gun at a vendor in Bourda market was shot and injured by a plain-clothes officer (March 15); while in May, the Linden police fatally wounded a cutlass-wielding man (May 16); and relatives of a Ruimveldt resident alleged that he had been killed by a rogue policeman (May 22). The following month police shot dead a fleeing prisoner, wounding a bystander in the process (June 26).
In the United States human rights report, the Guyana Police Force again came under fire over extra-judicial killings (April 5), while
the GPF reported that there had been 105 complaints to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) for 2002, of which 84 were answered and 18 were outstanding (March 1). Some days earlier, Mr Kennard, the chairman of the PCA had said that the authority needed its own investigators, and should not be dependent on members of the force to investigate their own (February 25).
Where the Office of Professional Responsibility of the Police Force was concerned, it was reported that there were 255 complaints in 2002 of which 228 had been fully investigated, and that at least eight files had been referred to the DPP for advice, and seven ranks charged criminally (March 2). In June, a traffic policeman was sacked for taking a $1000 bribe (June 24). The same month the GPF expressed itself concerned over magistrates' handling of narcotics cases (June 7).
The largest budget allocations ever made for the prison service and the police force were announced by the Minister of Finance (April 3), while in May, the National Assembly cleared the way for an enquiry into the police force (May 16,17).
The political impasse between the two major political parties blocked the appointment of Mr Winston Felix as Commissioner of Police for 2003, because the service commissions could not be constituted. This problem was resolved at the end of the year, but not in time for appointments to be made.
On March 9, CANU and the US Drug Enforcement Administration offered a $2M reward for information on the murder of Vibert Iniss, the former deputy head of CANU, who was gunned down in Buxton in August 2002 (March 10).
A row between Minister Gajraj and Commander Paul Slowe in which the President got involved, and during the course of which Commissioner (ag) McDonald attempted to transfer the commander from 'B' Division, ended in his reinstatement (April 25; May 1,4,6; June 15).
Economy and business
The year 2003 will be remembered in particular for the collapse of the GPL deal. After the utility company announced steep increases in tariffs in January, the Government responded by calling for the managers to go. A court temporarily froze the tariffs on a motion filed by Ramon Gaskin, himself a former chairman of the company. However, by the middle of the second month, GPL made it known that a fuel shortage was looming on account of a revenue shortfall, and a few days later it indicated that it planned to shut down a buffer generator. By this time, water pumping for the city was down to nine hours a day, and blackouts had become all too frequent. At the end of February CDC indicated that it was open to selling its stake in GPL, and a month after that CDC Globeleq and the Government gave up altogether on negotiations to salvage the company.
The Government bought back GPL for $1, the managers left the country, and Ronald Alli was named the chairman of a new board. While scheduled power cuts came to an end, there was an announcement of tariff increases for April and May, and notice of a possible further increase whose precise amount had to be finalized by the board (January 29,31; February 1,15,19,20,26,28; March 13,28,30; April 1,11,16,18; May 4,18).
Both Linden and Berbice had their own power problems in the first half of the year, and the Prime Minister told Berbicians that at this stage stable power could not be guaranteed (April 26,27; May 5). West Demerara too had a shut-down at the end of April (April 30).
The main crisis, however, was in Linden, where there was a shut-down of power which also affected the water sector - ironically at a time when the EU and the Government signed a $200M agreement for the rehabilitation of several water systems in the town (April 4).
The crisis led to major protests and the blocking of the road and McKenzie-Wismar bridge which was seized on March 28, thereby interrupting Omai's operations, preventing the passage of supplies for logging concessionaires and fuel to miners, and creating inconvenience for other businesses and individuals. The launch of the new Lethem bus service too was delayed as a consequence of the actions of protestors. Generators were sent to Linden to relieve the crisis, and the President visited. After the situation improved somewhat, and Omai started up again, protestors blocked the Omai road again over the dust nuisance, following which Jagdeo pledged $50M to pave Linden's roads.
By the third week in April, the bridge had reopened again, and the bauxite kilns were back in operation (April 4,5,6,7,8,910,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,20,21,24; May 11).
Where telephone operations were concerned, GT&T announced that revenue from overseas calls had fallen 39% in 2002 (January 19), while in April the phone company and Cel*Star signed an interconnection agreement (April 5).
A US judge dismissed ATN's motion to block an IDB US$18M loan for the Government's information and telecommunications technology project, and a few days later ATN moved to reopen talks with the Government on a new telecommunications deal (March 13,21).
By the middle of the year the IDB had given the Government the green light to restart the $1.6M telecommunications reform project, although the larger project (see above) depended on the outcome of talks with GT&T on opening up the sector. Six months earlier the IDB had warned that the brain drain posed a serious risk to the project (January 21; June 23).
The balance sheet for businesses was mixed: Neal and Massy Guyana Ltd performed "creditably" (January 12); Popeyes opened in Guyana (January 16,17); Citizens Bank made an after-tax profit in 2002 of $152M, an increase of 37% over the previous year (February 28); NBIC acquired GNCB, and won a $106M judgement against Main Street Plaza (March 16; May 6,19); Toolsie Persaud closed its Lombard street sawmill (March 18); NBS announced a $316M profit for 2002 (March 23); GBTI declared a profit of $171M for 2002 - a 16% increase over the previous year (March 27; April 29); Guyana Americas Merchant Bank made an after-tax profit of $12M in 2002 (March 28); Demtoco made $508M profit the previous year (April 19); Banks DIH posted a $619M profit, while the Government announced a withdrawal of the 10% remission of the consumption tax on the company's beer and similar products, resulting in a price increase (April 20; May 10); Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago appointed a Receiver/Manager for the heavily indebted Mazaruni Granite Products Limited (MGPL), and the following month MGPL was granted an injunction barring Trinidad Cement Limited from managing its assets (May 6; June 5); R L Singh, Amarnauth Muneshwer and Ashoka Singh became the new owners of Hotel Tower, after the Bank of Nova Scotia relinquished receivership in an equity transaction (June 16); Guyana Stockfeeds recorded a decline in its after-tax profit despite an increase in sales, while the EPA halted construction of its parboiled rice plant at Farm, EBD after objections from other businesses in the area about dust pollution (June 20;29); DDL opened a US$3M juice factory (June 26); and IDS Holdings, manufacturers of bags for the agricultural sector closed its Polysac plant (June 29).
A Welsh supermarket chain, the Iceland Group, sued the Government for 12 million pounds sterling over the 1976 Bookers nationalisation, which brought it criticism from various groups. It abandoned the claim in March (February 2; March 18,19).
In February we reported that Brazil had told a visiting ACP delegation that it would proceed with a challenge to the EU sugar regime. This represented a direct threat to the special prices enjoyed by ACP producers, including Guyana, under the sugar protocol (February 9).
In April the World Bank said that the Demerara estates had to be made profitable, or else be closed once the new Skeldon factory was in operation (April 13), but the following month GAWU stated that it opposed any closure of the Demerara estates (May 4).
There were the perennial problems in the rice sector, although Jamaica agreed to import more rice from Guyana (February 22). The agreement was not without its critics, however, since it sanctioned duty-free imports into Jamaica from the US of 65,000 tonnes of paddy annually (February 22); local producers said later that Caricom was pussyfooting on safeguarding rice (May 24). In April it was announced that the Burma rice mill was set for private management (April 22), while in June following an agreement between the Government and commercial banks rice farmers owing the banking sector over $10M became eligible for debt relief on a case by case basis (June 18).
In May we reported that $721M had been earned from the export of non-traditional crops in 2002 (May 24), and in June that a $1.8M dry dock for fishermen had been set up in No 66 Village (June 3).
Earlier in the year Minister Nadir had admitted that the new chicken tariff was too high for WTO specifications (February 12).
Geology and Mines Commissioner Robeson Benn informed the media that Brazilian miners had been behind the gold and diamond mining boom in Guyana, but the Brazilian ambassador told this newspaper the following month that 500 of them had returned home, at least partly because of the crime situation in the country (January 26; February 16).
The Government announced that Cambior, the parent company of Omai, was to take over the management of Linmine from August 1 (June 30), while it was reported that Omai itself had produced 2.85M ounces of gold in ten years, although it had paid no corporation taxes during that time because it had shown no profits to date (April 27). Three Essequibo residents sued Cambior for US$150M for the cyanide spill in 1985 (June 3).
The EPA gave the nod to a laterite minie in Corentyne (April 24).
A rise in the price of petrol at the beginning of the year produced the inevitable hike in mini-bus fares on some routes, and some strikes (January 3,7,9,10; March 25,26; April 1); the Berbice bridge project stalled (January 12; March 24); Remittances were estimated at 16% of GDP (March 22); and there was no PL480 wheat aid in 2003 (April 15).
The budget was announced by Minister Kowlessar on March 28, containing among other things, the imposition of a consumption tax on telephone calls, an increase in the withholding tax, notice of the intention to introduce VAT by 2006, measures to improve tax administration and an increase in the income tax threshold. It raised little enthusiasm from analysts (March 29, 30; May 9).
There were several fires in the first half of the year including at Soesdyke (January 14), Timehri (February 26), Turkeyen (April 8), South Ruimveldt (April 12), La Grange where a four-year-old died (April 22), Kitty (April 23), East Ruimveldt (April 30) and Liliendaal (June 1).
In addition the bonds of both Kissoon's furniture store and Toucan's in Water street burnt (March 1; May 13), and there was a major blaze in New Amsterdam, which destroyed the commercial heart of the town. There was serious looting during the fire, the cause of which, it was reported, might never be determined (March 9,10,12,15,16).
Traffic safety did not improve during the year. Some of the more serious incidents involved a three-vehicle smash-up which killed one and injured four others at Camp and Middle streets (March 23); a mini-bus crash in Essequibo which killed a UG student and injured three others on a field trip (April 24); three separate accidents on the same day which claimed three lives (April 30); a crash near Lion Mountain which killed four miners and injured fourteen (May 8); another truck crash near Bartica which injured 10 (June 13); and a collision on Church street which ended the lives of three persons (June 29).
At the beginning of the year we reported on the capsizing of a boat in the Waini river as a consequence of which a toddler died and three others were feared drowned (January 3); shooting accidents (January 6,14; February 9); the death of a pensioner after his house collapsed (January 23); the suffocation of two Lodge boys in an old fridge (February 23,27); and the drowning of two schoolgirls from the Shaheed orphanage in a canal (June 2).
Things were quiet on the foreign affairs front during the first six months of the year, the main action coming from the eastern front. In March, the Suriname government issued a request to missions and international organizations resident in Paramaribo that they should accept a map which incorporated the New River Triangle as part of Suriname's territory. Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally responded that this country's boundaries had not changed, and subsequently a formal protest was lodged. A few days later, the GDF flagship patrolled the median line, recognized as the maritime boundary by this country, but which is located in waters claimed by Suriname (March 11,13,14,16,18).
On March 21 we reported Dr Luncheon as saying that the government was committed to resolving the Suriname border dispute, and on April 9, Attorney-General Doodnauth Singh as more optimistically asserting that Suriname too was committed to resolving the dispute. In June, the Guyana-Suriname border commissions' meeting was postponed (June 22).
In May we reported that the Guyana and Venezuelan governments were in talks over the location of Venezuela's hydrocarbon concession known as Block 5. There were concerns locally that the block could impinge on Guyana's territorial waters (May 26).
Health and Education
The main news in the health sector was the announcement at the end of January that Guyana was included among the target countries in President Bush's $15B plan for the prevention and treatment of AIDS. The following month two US senators arrived on a fact-finding mission (January 30; February 24).
There were problems in the finance department of the Georgetown Public Hospital, and in April, the Auditor General cited Minister Leslie Ramsammy over a hospital advance (February 5; March 7; April 27).
At the beginning of the year the new burns unit in the Georgetown hospital treated its first patient (January 28).
Where the education sector was concerned, the teachers' strike, originating in a refusal by the Ministry of Education to negotiate 2002 salaries after an imposed wages increase, disrupted classroom schedules in an examination term. There was also no accord on 2003 increases, and after marches, acrimony, the shutting off of union dues and a temporary hiatus in the strike, terms of resumption were eventually signed on May 19. One of the provisions was an agreement to negotiate 2002-2004 salaries. In June, the teachers' union rejected the ministry's wages offer again (March 5,6,12,20,25,27; April 9,11,22; May 8,9,20; June 19).
At the beginning of the year, St Winifride's staff and students protested about the unhealthy conditions in their school, subsequent to which the contractor was dismissed (January 7,9); the New York school system came to Guyana scouting for teachers (January 8); teacher trainees got a $7.9M IT centre (February 27); the $18M Mahdia Secondary School was commissioned (March 3); UG merged its Arts and Education faculties (March 23); a Berbice student was chopped with a cutlass in the school yard (May 3); the education sector in Region One was given priority with an allocation of $20.8M in the budget (May 16); a contract for IT labs in three secondary schools was signed (June 7); and the appointment of a temporary administrator at the Tain campus was reported as worrying senior staff (June 18).
* Seatbelts became compulsory from January 1 (January 1).
* The impasse between the GPSU and the Public Service Ministry continued (January 5,10,14).
* The Good Hope trio detained by the army on December 4, 2002 was charged (January 16).
* The Region 6 REO was sent on leave to facilitate a tender board probe, and later in the month the Chairman of the region resigned on grounds of ill health (January 18,30).
* After Help and Shelter announced it would be forced to close owing to lack of funds, Didco donated money, and the Government pledged financial support (January 28,29,30; March 25).
* Dr Roger Luncheon fired the Integrity Commission secretary, but his lawyer advised the man to ignore it, since Luncheon had no jurisdiction in the matter. Some days later the Integrity Commission fired the secretary (February 1,11).
* It was reported that the Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Union had not had an AGM since 1998, and its accounts had last been audited in 1995 (February 16).
* Mark Benschop was committed to stand trial for treason (February 27).
* The Ministry of Home Affairs identified a 100-acre site on the Linden-Soesdyke highway for a new prison (February 27).
* The cash-strapped Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation retrenched about 20 of its senior staff (March 8).
* There was a rush to repair crumbling sections of the conservancy dam before the advent of the rains (March 19,27; May 22).
* The problems with pensions' pay-outs continued; Minister Bibi Shadick blamed GPOC accounting "indiscretions" for the delay (April 4,12; May 6,7,21; June 1).
* A bill to speed up land registration was passed (May 10).
* Water street vendors were given one month by the city council to comply with a court order stating that they could only do business between 7:00am and 6:00pm, and would have to remove their stalls at the end of the day. The council also gave notice to vendors on Bourda street to move to another place identified for them (May 20,30).
* It was reported that deportees remained unmonitored, and that 300 of them had returned in the past year (May 27).
* A National Toshaos Development Council was established to represent Amerindians following a three-day conference at Lake Mainstay (May 31).
* The Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic announced its closure because of a lack of funding (May 31).
* A GIHA symposium reiterated that Indians were the overwhelming victims of crime, and estimated that $176M had been stolen the previous year (June 4).
* Nurses protested about conditions at the Palms, and refuted allegations about them made by the PS in the Ministry of Human Services. Minister Shadick offered an apology for the remarks, and said that the institution was getting $6M for repairs (June 5,6,7,17).
* It was reported that the New Amsterdam Town Council was in financial straits (June 12).
* The Ministry of Human Services announced that visiting committees would monitor children's homes, and that there would be no subventions for orphanages unless financial statements were submitted (June 20).
* The Government torpedoed a UK-sponsored conference on Guyana (June 21,26).
Hubert Moshett (January 8)
George Henry (January 20)
Harry Hinds (January 28)
Joseph Pollydore (February 27)
Art Broomes (March 26)
Mahadai Das (April 5)
Donald Robinson (May 3)
Maylene Duncan (May 6)
Politics and government
There was comparatively less amity between the major parties in the post-dialogue period, than there had been in the first half of the year. In August, PNCR Leader Robert Corbin slammed the delays in dialogue implementation, which he listed, although he acknowledged there had been progress in some areas (August 19).
The impasse over the nominees to the Public Service Commission (PSC) was one of the issues that had not been resolved at the end of August, and we reported that nothing could be done until Parliament returned from recess in October (August 24). At the beginning of September, it was revealed that the government was chafing at the restricted presidential powers to appoint the Police Service Commission which it wanted expanded, and we reported the PNCR as saying they had been approached to agree to an amendment to arrangements (September 1).
Two months later, the PNCR repeated that there was no major dialogue progress, an assessment which the government denied. Corbin wrote the President to this effect, and subsequently sent a second letter stating that the political dialogue was "precarious." One of his concerns again was the non-establishment of the constitutional service commissions (November 19).
Nevertheless, on November 24, Parliament did approve the names for the PSC, although the PNCR declined to vote on account of its objection to the creation of a labour body through which one of the nominees had been proposed. Parliamentarian James McAllister said they did not vote against the motion in the interest of constituting the commission (November 25). However, the main opposition party made known it would not entertain the deal being offered by Jagdeo in exchange for expanding the Police Service Commission (December 6). On the eve of Christmas, we reported that agreement had finally been reached on all four service commissions, which would be established by December 31. After an absence of two years, the PSC was finally sworn in on the penultimate day of the month (December 24,31).
In the statements he had made in August relating to the slothful pace of dialogue implementation, Corbin had adverted to the failure to set up the monitoring mechanism involving the international donor community, and the unexplained absence of the President's representative at the second meeting of the grouping to discuss the issue (August 19).
At the end of the month we reported that Luncheon and Carberry disagreed on the form that the stakeholders' briefing should take, although it was expected that the group would meet (August 31), and on September 20, that the President's high representatives had not appeared for the second time when the briefing was finally held at the UNDP offices. Subsequently it was reported that there was disagreement between the high representatives of the two sides about the understanding between them concerning the meeting (September 21).
Luck smiled on the third attempt to brief the long-suffering stakeholders, who met on October 1, and expressed themselves optimistic about the dialogue (October 2). By the final month of the year, however, they were lamenting the slow progress in implementing some of the decisions taken by Jagdeo and Corbin, saying that substantial slippage had occurred with regard to agreed timelines (December 22).
In addition, Dr Peter de Groot, chairman of the Social Partners, which had sought to break the impasse between the major parties the year before, said that suspicion and distrust of the group's motives on the part of the government had scuttled the initiative. This was denied some days later by the PPP/C which said that the administration had given full support to the Social Partners (October 29; November 4).
A continuing disagreement between the parties was the matter of the voters' data base, which the PNCR urged the Elections Commission to scrap, and start over. Jagdeo said that the list (not the data base) would be checked for accuracy in preparation for the local government elections. However, these were posponed again in December (November 15,28; December 12).
Another source of contention between the parties was the school uniform voucher system, which the PNCR said was partisan, and which the ruling party maintained was even-handed (September 2,14).
Greater consensus between the two was achieved on the matter of the Linden Town Council, whose dissolution was proposed by the PNCR on account of the municipality's rapid deterioration. A few days later it was announced that the council would be dissolved, and two months after that, that an interim council had been named to run the bauxite town (September 13,17; November 20).
Just what the voters thought about the parties was reflected in the results of a NACTA poll, which found disenchantment among the electorate with both the PPP/C and the PNCR, although the former still led were a general election to be held. Disenchantment about crime, corruption and the economy, said NACTA, was widespread. While the poll found that Jagdeo was more popular than Corbin, the government was nevertheless unpopular. The best-liked politician was C N Sharma (August 31; September 2,5,6,7).
In September, a draft World Bank report said that Guyana was suffering from a crisis of governance, an assessment which was hotly contended by Minister Saisnarain Kowlessar, who called the review inaccurate, unbalanced and outdated. The final report was released towards the end of the year, which barely softened the earlier stance (September 14,16,18; December 10).
Where the PPP/C was concerned, Navin Chandarpal, having resigned as minister of agriculture, also resigned his parliamentary seat early in July. A few days later, Attorney General Doodnauth Singh submitted his resignation - he was still on the job - but then withdrew it (July 3,10,12). Dr Prem Misir resigned as head of GINA in September, prior to taking up the post of UG's Pro-Chancellor (September 7), and in December three permanent secretaries were reported to be leaving (December 24).
In November, Moses Nagamootoo announced that he would seek the presidential nomination at the 2006 general election, but a statement from the PPP's executive committee later said that he was not challenging the incumbent President, as he continued to support the presidency. In a comment on the matter, Jagdeo said that Nagamootoo had every right to challenge him (November 15,23; December 14).
In respect of government business, the gay rights bill was doomed following the revelation that most PPP/C MPs would vote against it (July 18), and it was not brought before Parliament in 2003. A bill was passed to regulate the movement of animals and to make provision for the registration of vets (August 23); a PNCR motion for a review of the Procurement Bill was denied (September 1); and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Bill was passed. The PNCR walked out in protest at the government's refusal to refer the 87-clause bill to select committee (December 16).
Crime: 'executions' and mystery shootings
While with the death of Shawn Brown in June, the world on the lower East Coast became considerably more relaxed, the shootings did not cease. The difference was that the new wave of 'executions' did not appear to be random; the victims had been specially targeted, and the whole operation often seemed to involve forces about which the general public knew little - the authorities declining to enlighten them.
The second part of the year began with a report that a man shot dead in Charlotte street three days earlier, had narrowly escaped when Mash Day prison escapee Mark Fraser, and another man, Lancelot Roach had been gunned down by persons unknown in October of the year before. He had been seen at that time running from the scene (July 1,2).
The next victim was a man standing in front of a bread stall in Kitty, who was killed in a drive-by shooting - the standard mode of 'execution' (July 17). He was followed in August, by two brothers shot dead in a mini-bus on the East Bank Essequibo by unknown assailants (August 2), and two more men in a drive-by on the Graham's Hall Embankment road as they were riding their motorcycles (August 5,6).
After that, it was the turn of a taxi-man, who was abducted by two men in a white car from outside the La Penitence home where he was staying, one of whom was reported to have claimed to be a policeman. His body was later found with bullet wounds on the Turkeyen Access road (August 16). Another man was abducted from South Ruimveldt Gardens, and bundled into the trunk of a waiting car (August 20).
A Mandela avenue businessman and a passer-by were injured after a carload of gunmen opened fire on him in his yard. The businessman said that it was the third attack on him for the year (August 22). In September, a dancehall promoter was gunned down in the vicinity of the White Castle Fish Shop in Alberttown, and another man was injured about five minutes later in Forshaw street (September 4).
The next day three bullet-riddled bodies were discovered off the Linden highway. One of the victims turned out to be a Jamaican national, and ganja was found in the camp where the bodies were lying. The police later destroyed ganja fields in the vicinity (September 5,6,11).
After that, it was another drive-by shooting, this time in La Penitence where a man was killed (September 7), and the wounding of a taxi-driver in Roxanne Burnham Gardens by a carload of gunmen (September 11).
Yet another Kitty man was shot dead 'execution' style a few days later, although on this occasion his assailants were on motorcycles (September 18), while an Alberttown man was shot and killed by a man outside the Blue Iguana bar in Alberttown; the perpetrator was a patron of the bar, but he still had not been arrested by the time the year closed (September 22,23,24,25,30). Towards the end of September, a part-time wharf hand was found 'executed' at Eccles (September 28).
In early October, shots were fired at an Alberttown house (October 8), and some days later the body of a man was discovered in Eccles; he had been shot in the head (October 14).
Three days after that a Friendship man was shot dead not far from his home in Brusche Dam, residents said that unidentified gunmen had been seen in the area (October 17). Old fears returned when a taxi-driver was abducted and was said to be held in the Buxton backdam. His family was contacted and a $5M ransom demanded. A $1M ransom was subsequently dropped off in exchange for his release, but he was not returned. Subsequently the police conducted intensive searches for him, but to no avail (October 18,19,20,22,24; November 16).
On October 24, two men were abducted and forced into cars by gunmen; in one case, the kidnappers claimed to be policemen. One of the men managed to make a dramatic escape from the car he was in while it was driving along Mandela avenue, but the other was less fortunate. His skeletal remains bearing a gunshot wound to the head were found on an empty lot opposite the Botanic Gardens a month later (October 27,29; November 26,27).
Two brothers were shot and wounded in the city, while another man was shot in the arm on Alexander street after he was cornered by a group of armed men in bullet-proof vests, whom he thought were policemen. He escaped further injury by "playing dead" (October 29,31).
Alberttown near the White Castle fish shop was the location where still another taxi-driver was killed by a gunman, while the following day a group of heavily-armed, masked men calling themselves policemen, ended the life of a Sophia resident in front of his reputed wife (November 3). The police subsequently urged citizens to request ID cards and badges from persons claiming to be members of the police force (November 5).
In mid-November, three men in a white car abducted a Friendship (East Bank) labourer whom they had earlier accused of stealing, and a few days after that, his brother was also found to be missing (November 13,14,16).
An Alexander Village man was critically wounded after three gunmen whom he described as "phantom men" opened fire on him near his home (November 14), and some days later, Buxton hit the headlines once more when three residents were shot dead at different locations, at least one of them by a wanted fugitive. On the same day, the body of a Sophia taxi-driver was found on the Ogle foreshore with a shot behind the left ear. His car was subsequently found abandoned in Berbice, and a couple was held by the police (November 19).
Some days after that, a Buxtonian who had escaped gunmen only the week before was shot dead in the compound of the Cultural Centre, while a second man was killed in Albouystown the same night (November 25).
At the end of November a taxi-driver who had cheated death eight months before, as well as his passenger were killed by gunmen who trailed them into Atlanticville in a car and ambushed them; and the same day a man was killed by gunmen in bullet-proof vests bearing police insignia outside his Sophia home (November 30).
December brought no relief, with the discovery of the body of a man bearing gunshot wounds in the Thomas road canal. He was identified as one of the defendants freed in the case of the Anna Regina bank robbery some years earlier (December 5).
The most dramatic killing, however, which was to have reverberations subsequently, was the 'execution' of ex-policeman Axel Williams in Ituni street, Bel Air, by an assassin carrying an M70 rifle. Described as a well-planned operation, Williams was reversing a white minivan belonging to A&D Funeral Parlour when the gunman who had been dropped off by a motorcyclist in the street only minutes before opened fire. Shortly afterwards, a different motorcycle pulled up, and the gunman escaped. Williams was alleged to have shot and killed a man over $20 the previous year, although he was never charged.
At a press briefing on December 19, Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj admitted having met Axel Williams, as well as a man named Shawn Hinds. He told the media that Williams had come to see him "on more than one occasion at the Ministry of Home Affairs," and that he had made an application for a licensed firearm. As far as he was aware, he said, Williams' application had been processed and approval given. He denied having any personal relationship with either of the individuals concerned. Questions had been raised with the minister after a businessman had been reported in other sections of the media as alleging that Axel Williams had had connections with a government official (December 11,21).
The next unsavoury news for the month was that a body bearing the evidence of gunshots had been found in a Vigilance canefield. It was later discovered to be that of a tattoo artist, whom his family believed had been abducted (December 13,15). In another gruesome find, a headless skeleton next to an improvised stretcher was found on the Linden-Soesdyke highway, while on the same day that report appeared, we carried a story about a gang of gunmen opening fire on the home of treason accused Phillip Bynoe in Silver City, Linden (December 16).
The end of Buxton-centred crime did not spell an end to banditry in general, and armed robberies on businesses and individuals - while less frequent and less concentrated from a geographical point of view - continued uninterrupted. The month of July kicked off with bandits taking $100,000 from Courts in Kitty (July 4), and $8M from a Duncan street business (July 14). The following week armed bandits went on a shooting and robbing spree in Sophia, while the Golden Pagoda in Albert street also found itself a target for the second time (July 21).
The week after that, it was the turn of an East Bank Demerara grocery, whose owner was also beaten (July 28), and after a brief respite the action continued, this time at Steve's gas station on Vlissengen road. The robbers gained access through the roof (August 14). The three armed bandits who attempted to rob the home of a Bounty Hall businessman, however, found themselves in the custody of the police (August 21), and three suspects were also held following the robbery and killing of a Cornelia Ida woman (August 22,23).
In the city, a Guyhoc Park businessman and his wife were robbed and pistol-whipped (August 24), and a lotto outlet in D'Urban street was looted by two armed men (August 28).
Bandits armed with shotguns and a machine gun held up an Ansa McAl truck in Soesdyke (September 13), while gunmen then struck in two places on the Corentyne, the victims being critical of the police whom they said they were unable to contact. The force subsequently announced that patrols would be stepped up in order to stem the crime wave in that part of Berbice (September 20,23).
It was a Linden businessman who became the next victim, being robbed at gunpoint (September 20), but in a more violent encounter, a patron at a Corentyne grocery and beer garden was shot dead by armed robbers, and the owner and his wife were injured (September 21). The interior too was not immune, a Brazilian miner being shot to death in an ambush by armed bandits near Wisroc. They took in excess of $1M. On that occasion, however, two men - believed to have been members of a gang of five - were held by the police, and subsequently charged (September 26,27; October 7,11). A few days later, a second Brazilian miner was murdered in the Cuyuni after five armed bandits invaded the camp, and seized a stash of gold. It was said to have been one of two raids on mining camps in the Cuyuni/Mazaruni on that day (October 4,7).
Almost a fortnight later, yet another miner was robbed, this time at Kurupung where $2M was seized. After a meeting between local and Brazilian miners and the police, assurances were given that miners' gun licences would be fast-tracked. The miners also clamoured for the closing down of the 'kayamoos,' which they said promoted crime. Towards the end of October the authorities set up an anti-crime checkpoint at Itaballi, manned by two police and two mines officers, to whom travellers had to report and show proof of legal activity (October 8,9,12,26). In addition to the mining camps, a logging camp near Rockstone was also robbed by four masked men, and equipment stolen (September 30).
Carjacking made its reappearance at the end of September, when four cars were taken in 12 hours, while there were two more hijackings of vehicles in early October (September 30; October 7). Bandits were also active on water, raiding a boat moored off Albion in October, and another in the Waini in November, where one crew member was killed, a second injured, and $1.5M in goods was stolen. On this last occasion, however, the pirates were not home-grown, but were believed to have been Venezuelan (October 8; November 24).
It was a car-wash man in the city who next found himself abducted, robbed and then shot in the thigh (October 12), while later in the month a Turkeyen family was robbed and terrorized by bandits (October 20). Montrose was back in the news after a resident was shot and injured by gunmen, who also robbed him (October 24), while it was a single bandit who assaulted a pregnant McDoom woman and grabbed $800,000 in cash and jewellery from her home (November 13).
In a crime which brought back unpleasant memories, a mini-bus driver who had stopped in Buxton, was shot in the head after he attempted to drive off. He had been flagged down by gunmen pretending to be commuters, and police said they may have been the same men who had robbed another mini-bus half-an-hour earlier as it stopped to put off a passenger in the same village (December 2,3).
Three days later, bandits terrorized Coldingen, beating residents, threatening children and making off with cash and jewellery. Not long after, the police announced that they had stepped up their presence on the lower East Coast. However, that did not prevent a Chinese proprietor at Cove and John from being shot dead after two gunmen attempted to rob his business. Some three hours earlier, three men had hijacked a taxi at Golden Grove, although it was not clear whether the incidents were linked (December 5,6,8).
The Christmas month saw a number of other acts of banditry - in Nismes, where the teachers' payroll was snatched (December 18); in Buxton, where rice vendors were robbed (December 18); in Berbice, where a magistrate was robbed of his salary (December 19); in Corriverton, where armed men raided the market (December 19); in the Corentyne again, where bandits struck twice (December 21); in Melanie, where a home was targeted (December 29); and yet again in Buxton where vehicles were ambushed (December 30).
Domestic violence was just as prevalent in the second half of the year as the first, the case receiving the most extensive coverage being that of Neil Bovell, who was alleged to have murdered his reputed wife, Philippa Harrison, in East Ruimveldt, where she had taken refuge after leaving their home in Stanleytown, WCD. It was subsequently reported that the police suspected him of raping a sixteen-year-old on the West Coast, and in October we carried a story saying that he had abducted a young woman after torching her home. He was also wanted for questioning in relation to the murder of her father. The girl managed to escape, but Stanleytown residents, particularly the women, went in fear of Bovell, whom they had seen lurking in the area. In November, the police killed a Stanleytown pensioner by mistake when they were pursuing the fugitive. He still had not been captured when the year ended (September 7,12; October 6,7,8,13,16; November 9).
In another case, the husband of an abused woman shot her brother when he went to her defence (July 2), and a few days later a mother of two had her throat slit by a male acquaintance in Kitty (July 6). In the same edition we reported on the killing of a man by his younger brother after drunken abuse of his sister-in-law. In the same month a long-standing domestic dispute caused a man to burn down his own house, while in La Grange a cane-cutter chopped to death another man, and seriously injured his mother when they tried to put him out of their house where he had been living (July 8,9). On July 13, a man shot and killed his wife and wounded her sister in Nabaclis following a row (July 14,17,22), and the following month a fourteen-year-old and her lover were shot dead, allegedly by the girl's previous partner (August 21,28).
The relative of a seven-year-old boy was held after scalding him with hot water (September 24), while the battered body of another seven-year old was found in a pit latrine after he had gone missing from his Brickery home four days earlier. Four were subsequently held for his murder, one of whom was his relative, but none of whom was his parents (September 27; October 2,4).
In October, a young wife was fatally stabbed in Uitvlugt, after two years of constant abuse (October 7), and some days after that police found a naked seventeen-year-old chained to a bed. It was alleged that her boyfriend was the one responsible for chaining her because she had come home late the previous night (October 17). A week later, a young mother was found dead in a Bartica hotel toilet with her limbs bound (October 23), and in a reversal of the usual pattern, a man was stabbed to death with a letter-opener by a woman in November (November 2). The following day a fisherman stabbed his wife to death in Mon Repos (November 6), and a scuffle in a mini-bus between a couple ended in the man drinking poison He died after they had been put out of the vehicle (November 7).
An equally bizarre albeit tragic case involved the death of an eleven-year-old girl and her twenty-year-old lover who were found hanged at Crane (November 8), while a jealous man gunned down the reputed husband of the mother of his child (November 14). Towards the end of the year an Annandale man hacked his reputed wife to death before hanging himself (December 9), and a Buxton butcher killed his wife in front of their children, and then attempted to take his own life by drinking kerosene (December 29,30).
In November, Minister Shadick expressed concern about the increasing incidence of domestic violence, and said that more attention would be paid to countering this problem (November 7), while the following month a project was announced to protect children from violence (December 31).
The never-ending parade of foreigners caught trying to smuggle drugs through the airport continued in the courts, two of the more interesting involving the discovery of cocaine hidden in sugar cake and pholouri in November, and roti in December (November 7; December 3).
In another odd case, a passenger fled the VIP lounge at the airport after the security guard questioned him about a letter purporting to be from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He left behind his two bags containing cocaine, but despite his initial escape, he was subsequently arrested (November 28,29).
It was eleven schoolchildren from two city schools who caught public attention in July, when they were found in a house in Industry with an undisclosed quantity of marijuana (July 4).
The cocaine-in-timber case produced no local arrests for the year, although seven men, one of whom was a Jamaican, did appear in a Welsh court charged with importing 120 kilos of cocaine into the UK. Court documents said that surveillance had revealed that contact for the smuggling operation had been made at a boxing match in the US, and that subsequent to that the Jamaican visited Guyana to facilitate the shipment, which left here on the MV Antilles on May 9. Jagdeo expressed himself dismayed by the lack of British help in the matter (July 12,17,18; August 21,24; November 5,8).
In another case, which had fewer reverberations locally, 42 kilos of cocaine were found in Guyana rice on a boat bound for Tema, Ghana. The narcotics were discovered when the vessel docked in Felixstowe in the UK, prior to sailing for Ghana (September 28).
The month of August saw the breaking up of a Canadian drug ring, involving the collection of narcotics in Guyana which were then moved to Canada through a crooked Customs agent at Pearson International airport (August 23).
In November it was the turn of JFK airport in New York, where a narcotics smuggling ring was busted, and twenty-five baggage and cargo handlers were arrested. The drugs came into the United States on flights originating in Jamaica and Guyana, and Universal Airlines and North American Airlines were two of the carriers identified in the indictment against the handlers (November 26,27,28).
At around the same time we reported that the US was seeking the extradition of a local man in connection with an alien and drug-smuggling ring which had been operating in and out of Guyana, and which had links in St Maarten and Puerto Rico. The man was said to be before the court on charges of unlawful possession of firearms (November 26).
In a bust of its own in July, CANU had arrested five members of a drugs and counterfeit money ring. Subsequently, a Colombian, a Venezuela-based Guyanese and three Guyanese appeared in court (July 31; August 1).
In September, the sister of a wanted man was one of two persons caught with a suitcase of sophisticated weapons in a car in Agricola. The vehicle had been followed by a mobile patrol, and the high-powered rifles and ammunition had been discovered when the trunk was searched. Three persons were subsequently charged, and arrest warrants were issued for another two (September 25,26,27,30). Two rifles and ammunition were found in a bag at a Lamaha street home in December, and some days later a stash of ammunition and flares was found at White Water creek (December 3).
We reported on various murders and the discovery of dead bodies where foul play was suspected over the course of the second half of the year, including (among others) the killing of a Camp Street prisoner allegedly by his cell-mates (July 8,10; September 4); the shooting of a football coach after he had gone into a West Coast restaurant (September 15,16,18,26); the abduction and murder of a Maida woman (September 17); the killing of a Port Mourant contractor (September 26); the shooting to death of a West Bank woman and the wounding of two others (October 28); and the chopping to death of a burglar by a Brazilian in self-defence in Bartica (December 19).
Where white collar and related crime was concerned, there was a multi-million dollar fraud at Banks DIH (July 3,5); missing money at GT&T (July 5); the selling of stolen tools in the city by former Aroaima mechanics (July 15); the looting of Linmine equipment (August 7,8); and the demotion of a GDF officer in connection with a visa racket (August 21).
In August the Good Hope trio were freed by the court (August 5); and in December, a teenager staged his own fake kidnapping in an attempt to extract money from his parents (December 11,12,13).
Four of the five members of the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) - Messrs Charles Ramson, Ian Chang (Chairman), David Granger and Anil Nandlall - were sworn in on June 30. The fifth member, Ms Maggie Beirne joined the commission later. The hearings began on August 18, and testimony was heard from a variety of sources comprising both officials as well as members of the public. The final report had not been completed at the end of the year, but the interim report on the Guyana Police Force alone was received by the Speaker of the National Assembly on December 1. Since Beirne was only scheduled to spend three months, and that period had come to an end, she tendered her resignation to the President and Leader of the Opposition. The PNCR selected Dr Harold Lutchman to replace her (July 1; December 2,11).
The DFC report said that African and Indian policemen should be deployed together as units of a cohesive national body, and that parity between the two races in the force was seen as the most commendable balance. However, it did acknowledge that complete parity might prove to be an elusive objective.
All special police units, said the commissioners, should have clearly defined terms of reference and operating procedures, and the members would need to be specially selected and trained to be accountable. In addition, they should be "ideally small teams of specialist officers deployed on a regional basis." The DFC reiterated that the Minister of Home Affairs could not tell the Commissioner of Police how to do his job; his power was limited to general orders and directions of an executive nature.
In an appendix to the report, Beirne said that unnecessarily legalistic procedures militated against participation by groups most directly affected by poor policing. These included Amerindians, young people, the poor and socially disadvantaged.
At the end of the year the SWAT team promised by President Jagdeo the year before was still not in place, Minister Gajraj saying in July that the government was still trying to access suitable weaponry and that the identification of personnel was going slowly. He reiterated that the intention was to include suitable members of the Target Special Squad (TSS) in the team (July 20; August 10).
In October, Dr Luncheon told the media that $28.8M had been approved to acquire vehicles for the police force, while $29.7M would go towards weapons and ammunition (October 10), while a year after the siege that had killed two policemen and a teenager, Rose Hall opened a new police outpost (July 19).
At the end of July, a coroner's jury found that two policemen were criminally liable for the deaths of Linden 'Blackie' London and Rhonda Forde at the Toucan Suites in Eccles on February 9, 2000 (July 30).
In July too a rural constable was charged with murdering a Corentyne mother; the fatal shooting had revealed irregular practices at the outpost in No 7 village, Corentyne, where he had been stationed (July 1,19). In addition, also in the Corentyne, a policeman was charged with the fatal shooting of a Rose Hall man which had occurred six months earlier (July 12).
The following month a chain snatcher was shot dead - not by the police, but by a city constable (August 7); a suspected burglar was killed by the police on the East Bank, in what they said was an "engagement" (August 20); and a policeman was stabbed after intervening in a domestic row (August 20). On August 26 we reported that former head of the TSS, Steve Merai, had resumed duties with the police force, but had been transferred.
Following the death of a Mabaruma man in police custody, a policeman and a civilian appeared in court on a joint murder charge (September 6,20); a Wismar man was shot dead and another escaped after they opened fire on the police at Millie's Junction in Linden (September 28); three members of the force were charged with drug dealing (October 2); and wanted man Charles Grant, called 'Piggy Mouth,' was shot dead in an exchange of gunfire with the police. One policeman was injured in the confrontation, which occurred at Grant's camp in a ganja field situated near the Torani canal. Grant had escaped from the New Amsterdam Magistrate's court the year before (November 7).
A policeman who was slashed by a man as he was attempting to arrest him near his East Bank home, died, the alleged assailant being subsequently charged with murder (November 19,20); the police shot and killed a man in Carmichael street, in circumstances where eyewitness accounts were at variance with those of the police (November 20,22); the two accused charged with the murder of UG student Yohance Douglas were seen in a boutique on Robb street under police guard shopping for shoes. Commissioner (ag) McDonald ordered an investigation (November 26).
In the final month of the year, the police came under heavy gunfire in Coldingen during a failed bid to capture five gunmen who had been terrorizing residents in the area; the bandits were apparently tipped off to the police presence by a dog barking (December 10). A lawyer filed a $5M suit against two senior police ranks for alleged brutality, among other things (December 17); and the police shot dead a Guysuco worker who had gone beserk over a pay dispute (December 30,31).
Two thousand and three was the year of the big fires. After the commercial heart of New Amsterdam was burnt down in the first half of the year, it was the turn of Georgetown in the second half. On November 13, a container truck crashed into a utility pole in Lombard street causing a power surge which sparked a fire. The blaze started at the back of the Royal Castle restaurant on Hadfield street, and quickly spread to the Auto Supplies Company, and then to Mohamed's Jewellery and Gift Shop on Lombard street. Allegations that the fire could have been contained earlier, prompted Fire Chief Carlyle Washington subsequently to blame (among other things) the lack of functioning fire hydrants in the area, and the fire service's inability to contact Guyana Water Inc (GWI) in a timely fashion to increase the water pressure, despite the officers' best efforts. GWI denied some of the fire chief's allegations, and claimed that it was not responsible for the fire hydrants (November 14,15,21,22,28; December 17).
The following month Muneshwer's was gutted by a fire which started in the bond, although on this occasion there were fewer criticisms about the handling of the situation. A former fire chief was later reported as saying that the fire service was ill-equipped to tackle major blazes (December 20,21,22,23).
Where the New Amsterdam fire was concerned, the Pitt street victims received $1.72M from the Government (July 20).
Apart from these major fires, there were also less extensive ones involving individual homes, etc (July 8,30; August 21,29; September 22; October 27; November 6; December 25). Two particularly distressing cases involved the death of occupants - one at Timehri where a child perished, and his father too died later from burns sustained trying to rescue him; and the other at Le Ressouvenir where a mentally challenged girl who was chained to a bed died. The father, a single parent, chained her in order to stop her from wandering (August 15,24; October 28,30).
On November 8, a Skyvan belonging to Trans Guyana Airways crashed in a canefield, killing a crew member and a passenger. A senior inspector with the UK Aviation Accident Investigation Board in a preliminary finding, said that the likely cause of the crash was a cracked engine casing (November 9,10,11,16).
We reported that road fatalities were up in the first half of the year as compared to 2002 (July 24). The number of serious accidents in the second half gave no cause for optimism either, among the more notable being the death of three commuters after a mini-bus plunged into a ravine on the Linden-Soesdyke highway (July 1); the injury of six persons at Atlantic Ville (July 5); the death of a father of five in Supply (July 22); the killing of two and injuring of several others in various crashes (July 28); the death of a pensioner in the city (July 29); the death of two after a truck bringing relief supplies to flood-stricken Karasabai rolled over (August 20); and the killing of a driver in a Mandela avenue crash (August 23).
At the beginning of September it was the big bikes roaring around the city which came to prominence after they were responsible for the deaths of businessman Raymond Panday, and shortly thereafter, a city council worker (September 5,6). A toddler was killed on September 14, after the car in which he was travelling with other members of his family was involved in an accident (September 15); while the following month two persons died in another Linden highway smash-up (October 9), and a young woman on the Diamond public road when a towed vehicle broke away (October 24). The end of the year saw two friends being killed after their pick-up slammed into a fence (December 27).
In other accidents, a wayward trawler hit the Demerara Harbour Bridge, and a second boat which tried to go to its assistance ended up striking the bridge as well (July 2), while a tug sank in the estuary of the Demerara river after encountering strong waves (November 27). A child drowned at Splashmin's (August 10); a UG student at Mainstay (August 26); the Guyanese captain of a vessel in the Orinoco river - some others on the boat were reported missing (August 27); a businessman at Baracara in the Mazaruni (September 2); three in a boat accident in the Waini (November 21); and two fishermen at sea off Mahaica after a boat collision - a third was feared dead also (December 15).
In bizarre accidents, a horse kicked a dray cart driver to death (August 23); a child was found hanging under a house (September 1); and a runner collapsed and died after completing a long-distance race (November 24).
The Caricom summit opened on July 2 in Montego Bay, and four instruments were signed for the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice two days later; in addition the leaders agreed to an executive commission (July 3,6). A month later, Caricom relations were less amicable, with Guyana protesting about Trinidad's extra-regional sugar imports (August 23). At the end of the year, at a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Blair, Caricom leaders voiced their concerns about the continued access of rice and sugar to the European market (December 3).
In September, President Jagdeo attended a breakfast meeting with President Bush in the company of some other Caribbean leaders, but from which Trinidad and Barbados had been excluded. Jagdeo said afterwards that the US was looking favourably at a request to send senior officials to ascertain what assistance could be given in the areas of security and finance (September 17,22; October 1).
It was the view of commentators that Jagdeo's invitation was a consequence of the Government's announcement that it would sign a bilateral immunity agreement with the United States exempting US soldiers from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, Jagdeo gave the assurance that this would be done only after Parliament had ratified the Rome Statute giving effect to the ICC (July 18).
As it transpired, the exemption pact was signed with the US in December, before the Rome Statute had been ratified, which Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Clarissa Riehl said represented a broken promise (December 13,14).
The Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Bill was passed in July (July 26).
Where relations with Venezuela were concerned, it was reported that the activities of the UN Good Officer in the Guyana-Venezuela controversy had been slowed down by political problems in both countries (July 27), but two months later the two sides were seeking to reinvigorate the discussions (September 30). Several Venezuelan fishing vessels were held by the GDF in the second half of the year, the first three had 40,000lbs of fish on board, and were said to be part of a larger fleet. The Fisheries Ministry told this newspaper that the
solution to the problem lay not in stricter penalties, but in fisheries access agreements with other territories (July 8,9,12,16; September 28; October 11).
There were fishing problems with Suriname too, only this time over the withholding of licences by the authorities in the neighbouring state from Guyanese fishermen plying their trade in the Corentyne river. They also complained about their catch and equipment being seized, even in Guyana waters; the President assured them that the government would address the issue (July 29).
In August, the foreign ministry let Paramaribo know that it would not like Guyana's large delegation to be embarrassed by anything unseemly during Carifesta VIII in that country. After the festival ended, Suriname protested to Guyana about the map depicted on the tee-shirts of this country's delegates; Minister Insanally responded that the maps represented accepted boundaries (August 21; September 12,13). At the end of the year, we reported that the Guyana-Suriname border commissions were unlikely to meet before next year (2004), and shortly after that that Jagdeo was impatient with the pace of the Suriname-Guyana border talks (December 21,29).
Following a visit by President Jagdeo to Brazil, a joint communique stressed the importance of coordinating positions on trade negotiations, and strengthening security cooperation on the frontier (August 7). In August too, India waived Guyana's debts, while the following month it was disclosed that re-opening the high commission in India was under consideration (August 26; September 16).
A trade and economic co-operation pact was signed with Cuba in July (July 11).
It was the operations of the foreign ministry itself which came under the spotlight in August, after part of the contents of a UN Advisory Mission report were published in this newspaper. Among other things, the report said that the ministry could not discharge even routine activities, and that the salaries of foreign service officers were unfair. Insanally expressed himself shocked at the leak. In August it was announced that Ambassadors Ishmael and Karran in Washington and Caracas, respectively, would be switching posts, and the following month that an Advisory Council for Foreign Relations had been launched, and that during the initial meeting numerous recommendations had been generated (August 20; September 13,16).
Education and Health
The teachers' pay issue remained unsettled at the end of the year, the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) having rejected most of the Ministry of Education's pay offer in July, and then in September, the offer of 4.8% for 2003. The following month the two sides agreed to arbitration, but there was a stand-off on the matter of who should chair the arbitration panel. In early December, the ministry withdrew unilaterally from arbitration, and announced a 5% pay hike for teachers (July 4; September 27; October 19; November 5,11,29; December 5).
Early in the second half of the year the ministry complained that teachers were abusing leave in order to attend UG (July 19), and Head of the Cyril Potter College Cheryl Foster that male teachers were becoming an endangered species (August 21). UNDP Resident Representative Jan Sand Sorensen said that the teacher brain drain was damaging the goal of universal education (October 18).
Where schools were concerned, the newly refurbished school at Port Kaituma was handed over in September (September 22), a Muslim school was opened at Anna Catherina (September 22), and in October, a $287M state-of-the-art Linden school was handed over (October 10). The following month, Uitvlugt got a $21M new school (November 22).
The US donated milk to the value of $156M for schools (July 29), and it was announced that US$8M had been allocated for hinterland education from the Fast Track Initiative (December 6).
Catherine Gonsalves of St Margaret's was the best SSEE student (July 3), Vishaal Persaud of QC topped the 'A' level exams (August 20); and another QC boy, Daniel Ram gained 14 subjects at CSEC, topping the region in the process (August 24; September 25). Despite the achievement of the top students at the CSEC, we reported that overall Guyana was behind the Caribbean in terms of results, and that more than half of this country's CSEC entrants had failed Maths (August 24; September 7). In December we reported that a former QC star pupil, Amlata Persaud, had won a Rhodes scholarship (December 11).
UG got a new Deputy Vice-Chancellor in Al Creighton, and a new Pro-Chancellor in Prem Misir (October 28; November 27). It also created a new School of Education and Humanities, which combined the former Faculties of Arts and Education (September 15). The tertiary institution graduated 1243 students in 2003, the Vice-Chancellor taking the occasion to lament the university's fragile finances and the quality of the teaching (November 10). The Tain campus graduated 117 students, the Director in his address saying that more transparency was needed at the university (November 28).
A rehabilitation centre was opened at the Skeldon hospital in July, DEC salt was launched to combat lymphatic filaria, the IDB gave the go-ahead for US16.5M health sector project, and the Georgetown Public Hospital began doing replacement surgery (July 7,25). In September, the US gave US$3.4M to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child (September 4), and in October, the Global Fund approved US$29.9M to fight HIV, TB and malaria (October 17).
On July 28 we reported that a baby had been burnt in an incubator, and two days later that the makeshift incubator had been partly to blame.
A young mother with a heart ailment who was required to wear an oxygen mask at all times, died after nurses 'made her walk' to the washroom; her premature baby also died subsequently. A nurse and a nursing assistant were given leave pending the findings of an investigation, and some weeks later we reported that they were to be sent warning letters, and would soon be back on the job (September 24,25,26; November 6; December 15).
In another case involving a psychiatric patient who had died while trying to escape from the hospital ward, it was reported that the staff on duty were to be disciplined (September 1,26).
A report that Minister Ramsammy was favouring new cancer-fighting equipment over two caesium units, one of which had been donated by the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana four years previously, but neither of which had been used, caused something of a ruckus. Subsequently it was reported that components were missing, and that there was a possibility of a leak in the container housing the units. At the end of October the hospital said that all the parts were accounted for, and that the units would be used. Later the minister denied that there was a radioactive leak from the units, while it was reported that the hospital was seeking advice on opening them (August 12; October 22,29,30,31; November 4).
After there had been criticism of the standard of work at some medical laboratories, the Standards Bureau head, Dr Chatterpaul Ramcharran, said the medical tests by certified labs did not produce erroneous results (September 1).
In December the doctors at the public hospital went on a sick-out following a dispute over certain allowances (December 17).
Economy and business
In the first month of the year's second half, the government was feeling the squeeze over delays in debt relief, however, in December it was announced that Guyana had secured a $65B debt ease. In September the US allocated US$836K as stop-gap support for USAID projects, while the following month, a senior official from the Department For International Development said that UK funding would have to be assessed in the light of the commitment in Iraq, although the British government did not intend to end subsidies to the Caribbean. Where the IDB was concerned, US$244M was earmarked for projects in Guyana over the next three years, including a citizen and justice programme worth US$15M. The bank was also reported to be funding an initial study for the Brazil road (July 1,18; August 5; September 11; October 28; December 18).
On the international trade front, cause for anxiety did not dissipate, the ACP states expressing themselves "utterly disappointed" at the sugar challenge brought by Brazil, Australia, et al, at the WTO. The last-named organization announced in August that a probe had been launched into sugar subsidies (July 13; August 30).
In mid-August the Fiscal Enactments (Amendments) Bill was passed in Parliament, which among other things, raised the practice licences for lawyers and doctors from $10,000 to $250,000, and introduced a 5 and 10% fee for their services which they were required to collect from clients. However, a conservatory order was granted to a group of lawyers in October, suspending enforcement of the act (August 19; October 2,10; November 1).
The act also raised the tax on the interest on bank loans secured by bonds to 45 per cent (August 31), a move that observers said could put a damper on the new stock exchange, which we had reported as operational in our issue of July 1, and which was officially launched in September (September 26). NBIC and GBTI both condemned the increase (November 4).
The government set up a task force to stamp out fuel smuggling in July, and the army held a boat with what was believed to be smuggled fuel in October, following which the owner and two others were remanded. Another one was held at the end of the year. In September we reported that the government had hired a US firm to mark and monitor all oil shipments. As a consequence, it was possible for the authorities to determine at the end of the year that 40 out of 100 outlets had revealed signs of contraband fuel (July 17; October 23,24; December 12,20).
Parliament voted to repeal the sugar levy in July (July 25), and the following month Guysuco announced it was moving into rum production (August 19). The chairman of Guysuco, Vic Oditt, tendered his resignation in October, and Ronald Alli was appointed acting chairman in the interim (October 15; December 13). In the rice industry it was reported that rice mill closures were leaving farmers with fewer options; however, in September we carried a report stating that Guyana expected to receive an 11.7M euro grant from the European Commission to improve the rice industry, and another that a new Alesie parboiling plant had been commissioned (September 16,28; October 21).
Where the utility companies were concerned, Minister Baksh and Severn Trent, which manages the water sector, exchanged words more than once during the year, in July and again in September (July 2; September 19,20). Power was once more in the news, this time when a landslide put the Moco Moco hydropower plant out of action. There was no optimism that it would be back in operation before the lapse of six months, and repairing the damage was estimated to cost $50-$60M (July 9,10,11,17).
GPL was ordered by the Appeal Court to reimburse customers for overcharging on 2001 bills (October 9), while it was announced that four power sets were to be leased from the US for Berbice (October 29).
On the telephone front, GT&T suspended dealings with Cel*Star, with which it had signed an interconnection agreement in April, until a dispute about the company's ownership had been settled (October 29; November 10,12,18,27; December 21).
The record for companies was again mixed, DDL sales rising, although profits were down by $41M in 2002 (July 6); the Main Street Plaza looking to reschedule its debts (July 26); Cambior taking over Linmine management and rehiring about 200 of the 650 workers (August 2; October 24); the problematic Globe Trust registering a $105M loss for 2002 (August 9); the EPA granting approval for the new Ogle airport expansion allowing for work to begin on a new runway (August 12; November 28); a developer being given the go-ahead for a seawall resort (August 12); the Lake Mainstay resort being hit by a visitor drop (August 17); and the commissioning of a new Salt and Pepper Food Court in the city (August 29).
In September it was reported that CGX was returning to explore for oil on land, and later in the year that it was eyeing an offshore location, this time in Essequibo waters where Century had previously held a licence, but had come under pressure from Venezuela to abandon it (September 19; November 17). In the same month Palm Court announced it was closing (September 23); and Guyana shrimp was cited in an anti-dumping bid by US producers (September 29).
The last phase of the Didco poultry project took off in October (October 11), and the following month, retailers complained about a chicken shortage (November 11). The company was granted a licence to import 1M lbs after a shortfall was projected for the Christmas season (November 27), and in early December it denied that there was a chicken shortage despite reports to the contrary (December 7).
Demerara Life's income went up 17% in what was described as another 'diffcult year' (October 20); Amazon Chemicals went into receivership (October 22); Rupununi beef was sent to a city supermarket by road for the first time (November 1); a new pineapple factory was opened (November 1); a dairy farmer took over the Dantzig milk plant (December 17); and the crime situation cramped Coldingen Industrial Estate investments (December 23).
Towards the end of the year it was announced that IPED loans were up, but the surplus was down in 2002 (December 2), and in our December 8 edition we carried a story about the glut of properties on the market as a consequence of loans made in the 1990s having gone sour. Banks sometimes purchased properties at auction themselves with a view to reselling them on the open market in the hope of getting a better price, and recovering at least a portion of the funds lost in unpaid loans (December 8).
Early in the second half of the year Toolsie Persaud Limited appealed after Justice Roy ordered the government to pay the company 260M for the compulsory acquisition of its land in Water street. Later, Justice Claudette Singh granted a stay of execution of Justice Roy's decision, but also a conservatory order to maintain the status quo. By that time vendors had occupied the land (July 27,29,30; September 6) At the end of the year Parliament approved $701M for winding up Linmine, including severance payments (December 15).
* A preliminary report into solid waste disposal found that 10% of garbage was dumped into the city waterways (July 4).
* Channel 9 was taken off the air for 24 hours on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting for violating the terms of its licence (July 4,5).
* Yvonne Pearson was elected National Toshao by the Executive Committee of the National Toshaos Council (July 4).
* Staff of the Palms blockaded the institution preventing Minister Bisnauth and officials from entering. The administrator of the Palms and five others were subsequently sacked over the incident, as a consequence of which they sued (July 5,30; September 5).
* The Genesis Home was announced as coming under new management (July 6).
* The Ministry of Local Government installed an interim management committee in place of the Maida/Tarlogie NDC, Region 6 (July 9).
* A sixteen-year-old boy removed from the Shaheed Boys Orphanage and placed with an Essequibo family was reported missing. He had been removed by state authorities because he was a witness in a criminal case (July 14).
* A passer-by was wounded, allegedly by a city constable, after a confrontation between the constabulary and vendors in Hadfield street over the demolition of their stalls (July 15).
* A derelict building at the corner of Regent and Wellington street was pulled down in the teeth of strong opposition from the occupants (July 21).
* UN Rapporteur Doudou Diene said that more fear than hatred was evident in Guyana's racial polarisation (July 22).
* Fourteen postal workers involved in the pension scam were reinstated after refunding the stolen money; thirteen were fired (July 24,27; August 13,14).
* The city council secured an injunction halting work on a four-storey building in the city (July 28).
* A war was declared on bad manners (July 31).
* Severe flooding was reported in the Rupununi, as a consequence of which some areas were facing food shortages; the government provided $2M for the relief of Karasabai (August 4,16).
* The PNCR and other commentators expressed their concerns over the draft broadcasting bill (August 6,10).
* The Iwokrama project was reported to be on the cusp of failure. In October, 8,000 year-old Amerindian settlements were unearthed in the Iwokrama mountains (August 16; October 19).
* A derelict building in Thomas Lands was pulled down, leaving around 70 persons seeking shelter (August 18).
* Cabinet increased the low-income mortgage threshold at which the concessionary rate of 8% would apply (September 3).
* The IDB approved funds for a commercial court (October 3).
* A Berbice ferry captain was suspended after abandoning his post and passengers' vehicles on the ferry at New Amsterdam (October 3).
* A retired civil engineer said that poor design and the incorrect use of materials were responsible for the railway embankment road cracking (October 14).
* A pilot project to cut the case backlog in the courts was launched (October 17).
* There was a split in the New Amsterdam council after old mahogany trees were chopped. The PNCR made a bid to calm the row, and two days later the mayor of the town, who had authorized the chopping, described it as 'unfortunate' (October 17,23,25).
* After numerous complaints, the NIS said that contribution records should be much improved by May (October 19).
* It was reported that the state radio and TV stations were likely to be merged, and subsequently that radio staff were to be terminated as moves to effect the merger advanced (October 22,30).
* The revenue authority was given the power to hire and fire (October 24).
* A UG legal aid clinic was launched (October 25).
* Bishop Singh's retirement was announced; the bishop-elect was named as former Abbot of the Monastery of Our Lady of Exile, Trinidadian-born Francis Dane Alleyne (November 11,21).
* A logger walked out of the jungle after being lost for eight days (November 11).
* The government denied nepotism in one of its nominations to a World Bank post (November 23).
* A new children's home was opened at Cornelia Ida (November 25).
* The government announced a 5% pay hike for public servants; the union said the decision was high-handed. A few days later Jagdeo said that the government had resisted IMF calls to fire 1000 public servants (December 4,6).
* A $280M water supply project was commissioned in New Amsterdam (December 9).
* CANU ranks were subjected to a lie detector test (December 21).
* It was reported that the elections body was moving to eliminate weaknesses in the voters' database (December 29).
* Priority passes on the ferry were stopped because of corruption (December 31).