IN the face of climate change, Guyana embarked on a remarkable journey in 2020 to revitalise its agriculture sector. These efforts have yielded significant results, mainly increasing local food production nationwide, and reducing the country’s food import bill by 14 per cent between 2021 and 2022. This was revealed by Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, during an interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI) on the sidelines of the 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown, on Monday. “We have prioritised several high-import commodities. Commodities that need a lot of funds to import…From 2021 to 2022, we were able to reduce imports by 14 per cent,” Minister Mustapha stated. He remains confident that Guyana’s food-import bill will decrease further, due to the slew of initiatives being undertaken. ‘That tells us that we are doing something good because we are reducing the food import bill. We are producing now to substitute all those foods that we used to import,” he stated. The initiatives being undertaken include the production of spices, high-value crops, corn and soya beans production, and brackish water shrimp, artificial insemination (AI) in cattle, breeding animals, millet cultivation, and the cultivation of bio-fortified rice, among others. Only recently, His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali announced that by the end of 2024, Guyana will become self-sufficient in the production of red beans and black-eye peas and will be able to supply all of CARICOM’s needs with these commodities by 2025. Guyana is also on target for self-sufficiency in the production of corn and soya beans by 2025. By 2027, the country will be able to produce enough of these commodities to meet the region’s demands. Minister Mustapha reaffirmed, “We are talking about 25 per cent of US$6 billion annually and how much money will remain in the region to do other things.” Guyana achieved 82 per cent of its food production target last year, while Barbados achieved 94 per cent of its target. (DPI)
–as Council attempts to claim ownership of lands along Carifesta Avenue DESPITE the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) clearing the air on the ownership of lands along Carifesta Avenue, the People’s National Congress-Reform (PNC/R)-controlled City Hall is clinging to its contention that the lands are under the council’s purview. While responding to the claims being pushed by Georgetown Mayor Alfred Mentore, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Councillor, Jai Narine Singh Jr,, well known as Don Singh, called out the council for being “anti-development.” During a statutory meeting on Monday, the Mayor brought the topic to the table and asserted the Council’s ownership over the lands; however, this was met with resistance from several PPP Councillors. The Guyana Chronicle, on the sidelines of the meeting, spoke to Councillor Singh, who said: “…I’m absolutely appalled.” While underscoring the importance of the GLSC, Singh said that this entity is one which “guides us all” and, without them, “we would all be squatters.” When asked about Mentore’s comments and claim of proof, the Councillor expressed much dismay and disclosed: “…They passed around a purported transport.” However, the transport was not anything shocking, as Singh said that the PNC/R-led councillors are executing the traits of their party. He related: “It is very clear that the PNC-led Council is carrying on as their party does. They’re anti-development. They have no sense of where we go as a country.” During the statutory meeting, Mayor Mentore had said: “I’m not concerned with what Lands and Surveys said in some article,” while adding that there needs to be “verifiable evidence.” CLEARING THE AIR Last week, the GLSC prepared a statement in view of recent concerns as to the ownership of lands along Carifesta Avenue. The following is the full text of GLSC’s statement: “Records in the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission indicate that Lots 1 and 2 of Plantation Thomas were held under Transport number 30 of 1863 by the Colony of British Guiana. Colony Lands are lands held before independence by the Colony of British Guiana. “These have since been referred to as Government Lands after 1966. The GLSC issued leases on Colony Lands (CLL category) and continues to issue leases on Government Lands, now GLL category. The unique feature is that these lands are held under transports as against State Lands, which are not. “Lot 2 was transferred to one Quintin Hogg vide Transport in 1886. A portion of land consisting of 15 acres, called Non Pareil Park, along with two other portions called A and B consisting of 18 and 10 areas respectively, were later transferred by Quintin Hogg to the Mayor and Town Council of Georgetown vide Transport Number 337 of 1887. “The area basically covered under this Transport extended from Camp Street to Vlissingen Road in an east-west direction and the area immediately south of Queen’s College’s southern boundary, to Cummings Canal in a north-south direction. This block of land was, save and except Lot ‘C,’ previously held by J.V. Caetano and which was acquired for the construction of Irving Street, the residual being fenced into the Guyana Public Service premises now. “The area retained by government covered the entire area to the north of the grounds on the northern side of Woolford Avenue from Camp Street to Vlissingen Road, up to the Sea wall (basically from Queens College to the Sea wall). “Over the years, various surveys were done over all of the lands for different purposes by both the Town Council and the government. For instance, the land on which the Government Technical Institute was built was acquired by government from the City Council by Order number 27 of 1951 (plan 5678). “The Indian Education Trust College of British Guiana obtained Lease 347 of 1960 from the City Council for 99 years for the area East of GTI. The Tennis Court is the property of the Council. Central High School was surveyed by the Council in 1959 (plan 8921). At no time did the council survey north of Central and Queens College. They basically knew their boundaries back then. “Plan 11057 shows the playgrounds north of Woolford Avenue surveyed by the Council in 1964; the Council should be aware if they gave any leases. “The Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission Stock Plan number 12850 highlights all Government Lands in the city and from the extract it can be seen where the red lines are. These are all government properties, except where they were sold. This plan also lists the various agencies and/or organisations that once occupied or still occupies some of these lands. “The government has been issuing leases for many years over the lands held under transport for the lands government had retained, among several leases the two play grounds on Carifesta Avenue where the new hotel project is to be developed. Permission number ‘C’. 434 was issued to the Teacher’s Training Centre in 1947 by the Department of Lands and Mines. “Permission number C. 433 was issued to “Youth Council” in 1947 for the area east of the Teachers Training Centre. “Other portions of lands were leased to Saint Stanislaus College, B.G. Boy Scout (now Ministry of Education), East Indian Cricket Club (Everest), Catholic Guild Club (now Marian Academy). Malteenoes Sports Club (expired, now being processed again). Cosmos Sports Club (now being processed for the Guyana Motor Racing and Sports Club). Some areas were also given to the Guyana Telecommunication Corporation by vesting orders under the Public Corporations Act; these are now part of GT&T properties. “The only portion of land that the City Council held in the area North of Carifesta Avenue was a dam between GT&T and Saints Stanislaus ground (called Wireless Road). This was leased to a private citizen for commercial purposes by the Council. “The above basically seeks to bring some perspective into the ownership of the lands in the area and from the account given, it can be garnered that the City Council does not clearly know what they own. The GLSC has a substantial amount of historical records that shows its control of those lands for well over 100 years. At no time during this period has there been any interference by the Council as to the ownership of the said lands. “A quick check of the amount of land held by the City Council will amount to approximately 43 English Acres, which more or less correspond to the area previously described as being held by the Town council. “Accompanying this report is a number of survey plans, leases etc. that can be very useful in terms of understanding the ownership and boundaries of the said lands.”
–Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield AMBASSADOR Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the United Nations, has reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The ambassador reiterated her nation’s position during a press conference at the US Embassy, on Monday. Addressing concerns raised because of recent satellite imagery showing Venezuelan military assets moving along the border, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield emphasised that while Venezuela has made threats, there has been no military action. Local journalists questioned the ambassador on if she believes that there is a “defence deficiency” in the region to deal with potential threats from Venezuela. “The issue, whether there’s a deficiency in defence, I think is really hypothetical. There is, as far as we’ve all seen, there have been no actions taken on the military side by Venezuela,” Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said. Despite the lack of military action, the United States remains vigilant and committed to supporting Guyana. The ambassador reiterated the US’ position that any changes to the long-standing border agreement, established in 1899, would need to go through legitimate international processes. “We have been clear in our support for Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as it’s laid out in the agreement in 1899, and that no changes in that agreement can be made without it being done by competent entities, such as the ICJ [International Court of Justice],” Thomas-Greenfield asserted. The ongoing controversy recently escalated with Venezuela’s increased military presence near the border. The ICJ has been tasked with resolving the issue, a process the United States deems the appropriate path forward. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield underscored the United States’ commitment to regional stability and international law, echoing the sentiments of the Guyana government and CARICOM members. Recently, White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby said that the United States has been “monitoring closely,” the Venezuelan military movements along Guyana’s border. He, however, noted that any military movements by Venezuela were considered minor. “Our assessment is that whatever military movements there have been by Venezuela have been of a very — of a small nature and size and scale and scope. We see no indication that there’s about to be hostilities, or that the Venezuelan military would be capable of conducting any significant military activities there,” Kirby said, underscoring the US’ stance on urging a peaceful resolution to the situation. Venezuela, last year, had increased claims to two-thirds of Guyana’s Essequibo region. This area is known for its wealth in oil, timber, and other natural resources, drawing attention and contention from both sides. In response to Venezuela’s actions, Guyana has been bolstering its defence and diplomatic efforts with the help of international partners, including the United States, aiming to counter security threats while promoting regional stability. Despite these preparations, Guyanese officials have reiterated their focus on defence rather than offence. Following Venezuela’s reaction to the docking of the British offshore patrol vessel, HMS Trent, in Guyana’s waters, President Dr. Irfaan Ali clarified the nation’s defensive posture, indicating no intent to initiate conflict with Venezuela. Amid these tensions, a significant diplomatic effort led by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines culminated in a peaceful ‘Argyle Declaration’ between Guyana and Venezuela. This agreement, reached during a historic meeting on December 14, 2023, includes both countries committing to avoid the use of force, advocating for dialogue and co-operation to prevent tensions. Guyana’s decision to take the matter to the ICJ in 2018 marked a pivotal move towards seeking a legal affirmation of the 1899 award’s legitimacy. With the support of CARICOM, the Commonwealth, and international partners, Guyana stands firmly in its legal battle, which remains under the ICJ’s consideration. Kirby’s remarks reflect a broader international call for diplomatic resolution and stability in the region, as he concluded: “And, obviously, we’re going to continue to watch it closely. You know, I would remind you that anything that we’re doing down in Guyana or in that area is done purely for defensive purposes.” The United States, along with the global community, continues to advocate for peace and dialogue over conflict, monitoring the situation closely as developments unfold.
THE story of CARICOM is the story of Guyana’s survival. No other country in the integration movement has benefited more from CARICOM’s existence than Guyana. If CARICOM did not exist, would Guyana have been the country it is today? The research says no. The research puts CARICOM as Guyana’s saviour. The generous attitude started when Guyana’s economy ran aground in the late 1970s onwards. First there was the tale of CARICOM’s Multilateral Clearing Facility. This was a mechanism that existed for CARICOM members to allow for local currency to be used to settle transactions without resorting to payment in actual foreign currency. The bulk of the funds came from Trinidad. This vital facility for intra-CARICOM trading collapsed because Guyana, under then President, Forbes Burnham exhausted the funds in the facility. Here is what Tyron Ferguson wrote in his very good book that remains one of the best written texts on contemporary Guyana, titled: “Management of Guyana‘s Political Economy.” I quote Ferguson on Burnham’s foreign-exchange problem: “Whereas in 1980, the arrears stood at US$45.5 million by 1985, the total arrears had grown more than 16 fold, a significant portion essentially to the CARICOM Multilateral Clearing Facility.” This was a lifeline to the Burnham regime that would have seen a quicker collapse if there wasn’t the clearing facility. As Guyana came close to the status of a failed state after 1980, American visas dried up. The Canadians withdrew visa services from Guyana. In the desperation to flee Guyana, thousands found refuges in CARICOM states, particularly Barbados, Trinidad and the Eastern Caribbean islands. Those who had qualifications in the teaching profession flocked to The Bahamas. Guyanese may have endured harassment at CARICOM airports, but this was because of the sudden influx of Guyanese which CARICOM nationals were not accustomed to. When severe food shortage struck Guyana from the 1980s, it was our CARICOM neighbours who provided survival pathways. Traders from Guyana flooded Trinidad, Barbados and Suriname. It must be remembered too that though Caribbean Airlines tends to have an anti-Guyana bias, this is a residue from the bad times when only BWIA, which later became Caribbean Airlines, was the only airline that offered services out of Guyana. Even though President Hoyte had opened up the economy after he succeeded Burnham, the question of free and fair elections remained elusive for Guyanese. We tend to see the Americans as playing a huge part on the pressure that piled up on Hoyte to allow electoral democracy, CARICOM’s role behind the scene was crucial. It was CARICOM simultaneously with American efforts that dialogued with Hoyte on free and fair elections. It was on the St. Vincent Island of Mustique at the CARICOM Heads conference in 1986 that CARICOM insisted that the time had come to have electoral democracy. Eugenia Charles, Prime Minister of Dominica, had laid down the gauntlet. She asked for Guyana’s expulsion from CARICOM and the removal of the secretariat from Georgetown. This was the breaking point for Mr. Hoyte. When electoral democracy was threatened again in 1997, CARICOM once more saved Guyana. The PNC created a regime of violence in downtown Georgetown as a result of losing the elections and not recognising a PPP victory. The situation was quickly deteriorating and CARICOM once more came to the rescue of Guyana. CARICOM appointed a high-level delegation of Sir Shridath Ramphal, Sir Alister Mc Intyre and Sir Henry Forde to visit Georgetown and break the impasse between the PPP and the PNC. Out of the negotiations, Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte agreed to recognise the legitimacy of the elections. This was concretised in the Herdmanston Accord and a subsequent CARICOM Heads meeting in St. Lucia strengthened the accord with what is now known as the St. Lucia Accord. The government survived and the PPP went on to win subsequent free and fair elections until once more in 2020, the PNC, this time with its political partners, the AFC and WPA, tried to subvert democracy once more. The role of CARICOM came into play once more and CARICOM once more saved Guyana. A group of CARICOM Prime Ministers came to Guyana and refused to accept a cancellation of the elections which is what the PNC, AFC and WPA wanted. It was through CARICOM that the suggestion of a recount was made. The recount idea did not come from any player in Guyana. CARICOM sent its team to supervise the recount, then, certified that the 2020 election results as giving victory to the PPP. This has been a long enumeration of CARICOM efforts to save Guyana from social destruction. In remembering the priceless role CARICOM played in the post-independence life of Guyana, this country must spend every ounce of sweat and every cent to see that CARICOM becomes stronger and closer to Guyana.
THE Region Three Private Sector Inc. (R3PSInc) lauds the bold move aimed at accelerating Guyana’s development trajectory underscored by President Dr. Irfaan Ali to CARICOM leaders, in prioritising the removal of trade barriers hindering regional food-security goals. Head of R3PSInc Halim Khan noted that the 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government emphasised the crucial role of trade facilitation in fostering economic growth and development, particularly in the agricultural sector. Despite significant investments and initiatives undertaken by Caribbean leaders to achieve regional food security goals, Khan explained that trade barriers among CARICOM member states continue to impede the movement of produce across the region. Khan noted that President Ali’s call for action underscores the urgency of addressing these barriers, which include tariffs, quotas, and other regulations restricting trade. “President Ali’s plea for the removal of trade barriers resonates, as CARICOM nations strive to slash the region’s exorbitant food-import bill by 25 per cent in the next year. Despite existing challenges, food trade among CARICOM nations has shown promise, with collaborative projects such as the black belly sheep project in Guyana and rice cultivation expansion in Trinidad and Tobago contributing to regional food security efforts,” Khan noted. In addition to addressing immediate trade concerns, Khan underscored the alarming statistics indicating a rise in food insecurity, stressing the urgency of concerted efforts to tackle these pressing issues. Meanwhile, he said Guyana’s focus on digital transformation signals a new era of opportunity and growth for the country’s youth. With the inauguration of the ‘One Guyana Digital’ (1GD) initiative, a collaboration between the Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) and Toronto Metropolitan University, Guyana aims to bolster digital literacy and foster economic and social development. “President Ali highlighted the transformative potential of the 1GD initiative, viewing it as a cornerstone for individual and collective advancement. With Canada’s Minister of International Development, Ahmed Hussen, announcing a significant contribution to the initiative, the partnership underscores international support for Guyana’s digital ambitions,” he added. He explained that the 1GD programme, designed to train 2,000 Guyanese individuals as full-stack developers, represents a strategic investment in building Guyana’s digital capacity. With a notable emphasis on inclusivity, the initiative aims to empower women and indigenous peoples, fostering inclusive growth and development. “As Guyana embarks on its digital journey, the importance of integrating digital literacy with the country’s growth trajectory is essential and with President Ali’s visionary leadership and strategic partnerships, Guyana is poised to become a hub for digital services, unlocking new opportunities for its citizens and driving sustainable development,” he added. Khan echoed President Ali’s call for the removal of trade barriers and underscored that his government’s commitment to digital transformation signals a new chapter in Guyana’s development story. “With a focus on inclusive growth, innovation, and collaboration, Guyana is poised to realise its full potential on the regional and global stage.” He added: “With the ‘One Guyana’ vision and under the leadership of President Ali as Chairman of CARICOM, it is imperative that we strive for ‘One Caribbean.’ This was evident during the momentous meeting’s opening, characterised by musical renditions and drumming. The positive and encouraging sounds that resonated in the air were devoid of vulgarity, a focus we must encourage the youth to embrace.”
–visiting Minister of International Development calls for ‘peaceful, diplomatic’ resolution to existing border controversy with Venezuela CANADA’S Minister of International Development, Ahmed Hussen, has called for a “peaceful, diplomatic” resolution to the ongoing Guyana-Venezuela border controversy. Hussen, who is visiting Guyana for the first time, made those remarks during a ceremony for the signing of a sovereign loan agreement between the two countries at the official residence of the High Commission of Guyana, on Sunday. “The Canadian Government is concerned with the ongoing tensions between Guyana and Venezuela, we stand with the Guyanese people, we stand with the government and we call for the respect of international law,” Hussen said. In December 2023, during a period of high tensions, the Canadian Government had issued a statement signaling its support for Guyana after a consultative referendum on the country’s Essequibo region took place in Venezuela. “Please rest assured that Canada supports Guyana’s territorial integrity and in any dispute we hope for a peaceful diplomatic settlement in this matter,” Hussen added. Just last week, Guyana’s President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, during an interview with six-time Emmy Award-winning Television Producer, Arick Wierson, for Newsweek Magazine, in the United States of America (USA), maintained that the government’s primary concern remains the safety and security of its citizens and its economic zone. Dr Ali had said that the country continues to foster relationships with its regional and international partners. “[We] are pursuing a path in which we have asked Venezuela to be [a] partner and upholder of international law and to respect the ICJ [International Court of Justice] and the outcome of the ICJ,” he said, when asked about recent satellite images showing the expansion of Venezuelan troops near the country’s border. “Our primary concern is the safety and security of our citizens, our investment and everything that is our territorial space; our sovereign space and our exclusive economic zone and that is why we believe we are pursuing a path of diplomacy,” he added. Guyana, Dr Ali said, has been working with both its regional and international partners to maintain a peaceful region. These include the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, and the United States of America (USA). Through these partnerships, Guyana has been working to build a robust mechanism of co-operation and integrated approach and joint commitment to ensuring the region remains peaceful. Last month, Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hugh Todd, led a delegation to Brazil where a meeting was held with Venezuelan officials. President Ali had said that the continued conversations between the two nations will set the stage for another scheduled meeting with himself and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, in keeping with the Argyle Declaration, an 11-point agreement that outlines a pledge from both countries to refrain from escalating the decades-old border controversy among the two states. In December, the two Heads of States met in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. The meeting was facilitated by the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, and observed by Brazil, CARICOM, and a UN Under-Secretary-General. This historic meeting culminated in what is now known as the “Argyle Declaration,” an 11-point agreement that addresses matters consequential to the border controversy, including the fact that Guyana stands firm in its position that the substantial case is before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). According to a recent press release from Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country remains fully committed to the principles of the Argyle Declaration, in particular the maintenance of peace in Latin America and the Caribbean.
–to support regional climate adaptation efforts RECOGNISING that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is extremely vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, Chairman of CARICOM, President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali has announced a US$2 million financing towards the Regional Adaption Fund. Speaking at an event to mark the opening of the 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM Sunday afternoon, President Ali reiterated the country’s commitment to the Bridgetown Initiative. The Bridgetown Initiative, piloted by Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Amort Motley calls for the overhaul of the current global financial system led by the IMF and the World Bank to enable mobilisation of more private financing for the climate transition and improved resilience in vulnerable countries. According to the Head of State, Guyana strongly supports the initiative and will be taking responsibility on its own to invest in the region’s climate resilience. “To this end, I want to say that to support these adaption efforts of the region, Guyana is committing US$2 million out of our revenue earned from the sale of our Carbon Credits as part of our LCDS (Low Carbon Development Strategy) to the regional adaptation fund,” the Guyanese President announced at the National Culture Centre (NCC). Additionally, oil giant ExxonMobil’s Global Trust Fund has committed another US$3 million for sustainable projects, to build resilience and improve productivity within the region, including food security. “With this support, the Regional Adaptation Fund will have an investment of US$5 million to start with,” the CARICOM chair further disclosed. The CARICOM Chair and Canada’s Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen have also agreed on the importance of ramping up access to climate financing at scale and using an efficient mechanism to accomplish the mission. “And in saying this, I reminded the minister that there is a substantial commitment that was made to heads at the Canada-CARICOM summit and we are now looking in the coming weeks to activate that commitment, to have those funds disbursed and ready to support the region’s adaption and resilience strategy,” he further stated. The Carbon Credit Fund, the Guyanese President referred to, is the US$750 million monumental agreement with global energy giant – Hess Corporation – which will see the company purchasing 2.5 million carbon credits annually. In 2023, Guyana received its first payment of US$150 million with 15 per cent (US$22.5M) disbursed to 242 Amerindian, riverine, and remote communities across Guyana, leading to the implementation of 811 economic and social projects. Climate resilience is one of several pressing issues that will be discussed at the conference that will be hosted at the Guyana Marriott Hotel, in Kingston, Georgetown. Other critical areas include energy security, food security, regional transportation, regional security, including the situation in Haiti, and border issues, among others. (DPI)
The following is the full text of a statement from the Association for Democracy and Human Rights (Guyana) Inc.: “THE advocacy for rigged elections by Mr. Hamilton Green, a prominent figure associated with the People’s National Congress (PNC) and a former Prime Minister in Guyana, is a stark reminder of the threats that democracy still faces today. “His remarks, suggesting that electoral fraud is a viable means to combat political opposition, are not only alarming but [are] also an affront to the principles of democratic governance and the Rule of Law. “Such statements recall a period in Guyanese history where [sic] democracy was subverted, and power was maintained through electoral deceit, casting a long shadow over the nation’s efforts to build a transparent and accountable political system. “It is imperative to take proactive steps to safeguard the electoral process, ensuring that the upcoming 2025 elections are conducted in a manner that is free, fair, and reflective of the will of the Guyanese people. “The path forward for Guyana must be paved with a commitment to democracy, transparency, and accountability. “Let us stand united against any attempts to undermine the electoral process and work tirelessly to ensure that Guyana’s democratic institutions are robust and resilient. “The legacy of rigged elections must remain a relic of the past, as we strive to build a future where every citizen’s voice is heard, and their vote counts. “The collective action of all Guyanese can ensure that democracy triumphs over attempts to subvert it, securing a prosperous and democratic future for generations to come. “Reject Anti-democratic Forces Now!”
Caricom summit opens with promise to prioritise Haiti Feb 26, 2024 News – President Irfaan Ali, assuming the rotating Chairmanship of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), on Sunday declared Haiti’s welfare as a paramount concern for the regional body during his address at the opening of 46th Regular Meeting of the 15-member bloc. The event took place at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown. President Ali’s address not only highlighted the urgent need to address the challenges facing the French-speaking nation, besieged by political and violence but also outlined a comprehensive agenda encompassing regional food security, trade facilitation, digital transformation, and climate resilience. In his impassioned speech, President Ali underscored CARICOM’s unwavering commitment to advancing the interests of the Haitian people. He commended the leadership of Former St. Lucian Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, who chairs the group tasked with addressing Haiti’s multifaceted issues. “Today (Sunday), we spend most of this morning on the very issue of Haiti, we are committed as a region in ensuring that the people of Haiti can also realise their full potential in peace, security and with good governance, we owe it to the people of Haiti,” Ali added. “Anything that impedes the interest of the people of Haiti is of immense concern for the leadership of this region,” President Ali affirmed. “Sometimes as a region, we are in tough positions and we have to take tough measures…” the President stated. President Ali recognised the escalating food insecurity within the region, citing statistics indicating a rise in the proportion of the population affected by hunger and malnutrition since 2022. He announced plans to end hunger and malnutrition in the region by 2030 by mobilising international finance and support. To combat this pressing challenge, he announced collaborative efforts with Canada to finance projects aimed at promoting innovative agriculture, particularly involving youth and women. Moreover, a sustainable agriculture project, with a proposed investment of US$25 million from Saudi Arabia, aims to revitalise food production systems in the region, with a specific focus on empowering youth and women in agribusiness. President Ali said CARICOM will be working with, “Empraba or Brazil for the rebuilding of the citrus sector of the region focusing on having one million citrus seedlings available within the first year by the end of December 2024…to revitalise the citrus industry in the region.” Notably, President Ali made an assertive comment for the trade barriers within the region to be removed. He said: “We are too small to be competing against each other…people of this region call upon your leaders to remove these barriers…these barriers need to go and must go urgently.” Digital transformation In the realm of digital transformation, President Ali proposed the development of a unified digital strategy and regulations governing the use of artificial intelligence (AI) within the region. Ali said, “Because if we are going to integrate that digital platform, we must be integrated from conceptualisation to implementation, we cannot all operate on a different platform, it will not help integration and we have to take this very seriously.” He continued: “I believe the region must work immediately on developing regulations to govern the AI and the use of AI within this region. We must have a common rule-based system regulations and legislation to deal with AI, it is going to be disastrous if we do not manage this now and have the infrastructure established to manage it now.” President Ali stressed the need for a common framework to harness the potential of digital technologies while ensuring inclusivity and accountability. Moreover, recognising the existential threat posed by climate change, President Ali reaffirmed CARICOM’s commitment to climate resilience and adaptation. He announced significant contributions towards the regional adaptation fund, with commitment, US$2 million and US$3 million from Guyana’s carbon sale credits and ExxonMobil respectively. President Ali also underscored the importance of regional energy security, highlighting the potential of renewable energy resources in Suriname, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago to bolster the region’s energy infrastructure. “We need to sit down and articulate a regional energy plan that guarantees regional energy security, just like we are working on a plan that ensures regional food security. This is an important agenda item that we must confront,” the new CARICOM Chair said. In concluding his address, President Ali expressed optimism about the opportunities that lie ahead for CARICOM. He commended the achievements of the previous Chair, Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, and pledged to work collaboratively with member states to address the region’s most pressing challenges and foster sustainable development. Argyle agreement Skerrit, in his address, hailed the peace agreement facilitated by CARICOM between Guyana and Venezuela in St. Vincent last December as a model for global emulation. Skerrit expressed profound satisfaction at Venezuela’s decision to step back from its threats of forceful annexation of the Essequibo region, while Guyana, without resorting to violence, reciprocated. Reflecting on his presence during the agreement’s culmination in St. Vincent, Skerrit expressed unwavering confidence in the unity and Caribbean spirit to continue guiding them forward. “We made international news not for unrest or war or violence but for our hosting of mature proactive deliberations, that created a template, which others in the world would do well if they follow,” he said. Maintaining peace Meanwhile, CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett in her address highlighted the region’s commitment to maintaining peace. Dr. Barnett said, “We are committed to retain the region as a zone of peace despite various border controversies and the passage of guns from overseas…” In her speech, she also underscored the leaders’ to focus priorities on issues such as food security, climate change, free movement of people, financial assistance, and enhanced trade within the region. CARICOM, Carla Barnett, Irfaan Ali, meeting, Roosevelt Skerrit
I interviewed Hamilton Green for publication twice. I will never ever do that again. As a practicing social scientist with space in the media, my requirement is to read what is said in and about Guyana. But I have made Green an exception. I do not read what Green writes because I feel that Green is a departure from human ordinariness. For me, Green is a politician beyond redemption. My first interview was published in the Kaieteur News of Monday, October 16, 2017. Three aspects of that interview pierced my heart and I wondered why Guyana was so unfortunate to have a man with such enormous power for almost three decades. First, he justified President Burnham not allowing Walter Rodney a job at UG. He said he, Hamilton Green, got word from top Tanzanian officials to stop Rodney from coming to Guyana because he was going to create trouble. So Green and Burnham arrogated to themselves the authority to decide the rights of Guyanese citizens. And do not forget, this decision was one year after the 1973 rigged election. Secondly, he said he was aware from information, provided by state intelligence, that WPA activist, Ohene Koama had guns in the car trunk. These are his exact words in the interview: “We were waiting for him.” From his words, it appeared that the decision was made to shoot Koama. He was shot and killed by the police outside his home. Thirdly, at the end of the interview, I asked Green if he had any regrets during his long reign of power, he said, “none whatsoever.” The Monday morning when the newspaper came out, Andaiye rang me to say how incredible she found that attitude of Green. The interview was conducted in the study of Green‘s home and when he uttered those words, I got goose bumps. Green is in the news for his remarks about the need to rig future elections to keep the PPP out of power. But his controversy has obfuscated the massive irony of the event out of which came Green’s words. The occasion was the 101 birth anniversary of Forbes Burnham observed by the Forbes Burnham Foundation headed by Vincent Alexander. For the event, a number of speakers presented blueprints for the democratisation of Guyana. These presentations made no mention of Burnham’s role in the destruction of post-Independence democracy and Walter Rodney’s ultimate sacrifice in trying to stop the further erosion of democracy under Burnham. Was it not a huge irony, maybe the word “colossal” is more appropriate in that a blueprint for democracy came from within the walls of an organisation named the Burnham Foundation? Guyana lost its immediate post-colonial stability, removed the right of people to vote for their leaders and had some of its freedom fighters murdered during the reign of Forbes Burnham. This descent into autocracy came about because the foundation of Burnham’s psyche rested on narcissism, omnipotence and messianic cultism. Armed with visionary zeal on how to transform a dilapidated economy wrecked by sugar plunder by the British empire, Burnham set out on a one-man journey of transformation that had no place for democratic values, rule of law, rights and liberties and recognition and tolerance for opposition parties. For Burnham, these were humbugs in building the new Guyanese and the new nation. The psychic foundation of Burnham did not allow for a united post-colonial society where the transition from colonial brainwashing and colonial economy to self-reliance and resource ownership would be pursued through what Bob Marley referred to as “one love.” There was no “one love” in the building of a new society in Guyana after 1966. It was Burnham’s love only. This explains the obsession with purple – the colour of the Roman emperors, the need to speak to the masses from the balcony of the Bank of Guyana, riding horseback at Hope estate unto the pathway of workers and seeing the masses scramble for safety, riding horseback in south Georgetown with high top purple boots and seeing the masses running toward you for scare cigarettes, and smoking Cuban cigars at mass games while school children belt out the words, “follow de leadah” in rhythmic style. This constituted the psychic foundation of Burnham. His sister, Jesse, wrote her little booklet and warned Guyanese about this psychic foundation but global events conspired to allow this psychic foundation to roam freely. At the Burnham Foundation event, Hamilton Green used the words, “devil”, “bastard”, and “demon” to describe the PPP leaders. Those were the very words Walter Rodney employed to describe Burnham. I was told by the closest comrade Burnham had, Elvin Mc David, that after the assassination of Rodney, Burnham stopped listening to Marley. Burnham ran from a particular set of Marley’s lyrics which I leave with you below. “How long shall they kill our prophets? While we stand aside and look Some say it’s just a part of it We’ve got to fulfill the book”