2013…Another challenging but successful year for the Presidency

2013…Another challenging but successful year for the Presidency

 

Georgetown, GINA, January 2, 2014

 

The year just gone by was one of numerous challenges for President Donald Ramotar, particularly in the face of an uncompromising political opposition, but there were some accomplishments as well.

He scored big at the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) 30th congress, winning the majority 886 votes, topping the list of the Party’s Central Committee.

President Donald Ramtoar examining the coveted FIFA World Cup trophy during a gala event at Thirst Park

The year 2013 commenced with the Head of State making major announcements, chief among which was a feasibility study for a new Demerara River crossing, in light of the heavy volume of traffic burdening the age old infrastructure.

The first LIAT aircraft touched down at the Ogle International Airport that was certified an international port of entry on March 26, and as part of the ceremonial commissioning, the Head of State accompanied a delegation on a flight to Mount Roraima and back in the executive Cessna Citation XLS+. The Head of State was pleased with the transformation of Ogle Airport, but there was disappointment over Delta airlines pulling out from the Georgetown to Miami route on profitability grounds; a rationale the Government found unsubstantiated.

President Donald Ramotar joins Chief Executive Officer of Qualfon Mike Marrow and Site Director Mark Boyer to turn the sod for Qualfon’s multi-building campus

The situation, coupled with the suspension of EZJet’s licence following criminal charges laid against its boss, and RedJet being forced to terminate services as a result of operating costs, prompted the Government to seek alternatives leading President Donald Ramotar to enter into talks with reputable airlines. During that period Caribbean Airlines was granted flag carrier status, allowing it to conduct direct flights between Georgetown and New York, and Georgetown and Toronto.

Chairman of the Linden Commission of Inquiry, Justice Lensley Wolfe presenting the final report of the commission’s findings to President Donald Ramotar

 

Witnessing proud moments

The Government through the Ministry of Housing and Water continued its aggressive housing programme with numerous One Stop Shop exercises across the country. The Head of State dropped in on a few to congratulate successful applicants who were on the road to owning their own home.

President Donald Ramotar handing over a house key to a resident of White Water, Region One

On several of those occasions, President Ramotar spoke of his Government’s philosophy of every Guyanese having equal opportunities and realising dreams, one of which is home ownership.

Meanwhile, residents of White Water a small Amerindian village in the North West District, Region One and Kwatamang in Region Nine were also proud owners of their new homes under the hinterland component of the housing programme.

Some were moved to tears when the president handed over the keys, recalling the conditions under which they were living prior to the project coming to fruition.

 

Consultation with Indigenous people

The high level engagement between the Government and the indigenous people continued in 2013 when the seventh annual National Toshaos Council (NTC) meeting got under way.  Amerindians utilise the presidential grants for income generating projects and were told that more were to be available. In November funds were released for payment.

President Donald Ramotar is garlanded on his arrival at Karasabai for Heritage village celebrations

At the opening of the NTC, the President witnessed the signing of a US$10.7M land titling initiative between the Guyana Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for titling of 13 Amerindian communities and demarcation of 33 others.

President Donald Ramotar addresses Toshaos and other Amerindian leaders and attendees at the 7th NTC meeting

The land titling process suffered a major setback when the political opposition cut funding from the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), Guyana REDD + Investment Fund (GRIF) projects.

Karasabai welcomed the Head of State when he visited on September 7 as the South Pakaraimas community marked its heritage village celebrations.

 

Engagements with Opposition

The political Opposition continued with the same posture in 2013, slashing the country’s National Budget and key priority projects, prompting reactions from all spheres in society. The parliamentary saga continued with the opposition voting down the anti-money laundering legislation, making Guyana vulnerable to financial crimes.  The President considered it the worst form of economic sabotage ever demonstrated.

The President was most appalled by the non support for the firearms amendment bill in the National Assembly on March 14 which sought to strengthen the laws regarding the trafficking in firearms, and trading or possession of the components of firearms

Members of the Opposition and Government Officials led by President Donald Ramotar in meeting at the Office of the President

Non support of the bill followed a string of attempts to discredit Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee who the political opposition had filed a no confidence motion against especially since the protest action in Linden over the restructuring of the electricity tariff resulted in three deaths. The situation had prompted a halt in the proposed electricity tariff imposition and an agreement among the Government, Opposition and Region Ten Administration for an independent Commission of Inquiry into the deaths.

A five member panel of distinguished jurists from the Caribbean led the Commission which after six months of hearings and examination concluded their findings. Minister Rohee was cleared of any involvement and compensation was recommended for the victims’ families.

 

Addressing security concerns

In the ongoing battle against crime and the maintenance of law and order, President Ramotar reminded the security forces to also work on building the public’s trust and confidence.

Speaking to police officers at the commissioning of a $158.4M Police Training Centre, he said effective crime fighting also requires building confidence and maintaining good community relations, and made clear his no tolerance for rogue elements in the force.

With the demand on the GPF to strengthen its resolve to tackle crime, newly appointed Commissioner of Police Leroy Brummel said before President Ramotar and other security officers that he stood ready to do all in his powers to serve and protect the citizens “and to take back our streets and communities from the criminals.”

Meanwhile Brigadier Mark Philips was also sworn in as Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), succeeding Rear Admiral, Gary Best.

 

Local Gov’t elections

Critics of the government were caught by surprise when President Ramotar signed three of four Local Government Bills into law; the Fiscal Transfers Bill 2012, Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill and the Local Government Commission Bill.        He withheld assent to the Local Government (Amendment) Bill citing unconstitutionality.

 

Diplomacy

Relations with neighbouring Venezuela intensified with a state visit of President Nicolas Maduro. He was given a welcome befitting a head of state, engaged in bilateral talks, hosted to lunch and signed a joint declaration that builds on the existing relation and the opening up of new areas of cooperation.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and President Donald Ramotar at the signing of the joint declaration

President Maduro succeeded the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez who has been at the centre of peaceful and productive relations with Guyana and in whose honour the Hugo Chavez Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice was commissioned.President Donald Ramotar joined Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the opening of the sustainable development summit

Another historic moment was witnessed when President Ramotar met Chinese Premier Xi Jinping in June for talks on further cementing the longstanding relationship between Guyana and China. The Chinese premier was at the time meeting CARICOM leaders in Trinidad and Tobago.

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets Guyana’s Head of State Donald Ramotar

In the latter half of the year, the Guyanese Head of State travelled to Dubai for talks with His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. The discussion focused on bilateral relations in various fields and boosting joint cooperation in diverse areas.

Haitian President Michel Martelley met the Guyanese Head of State and his Cabinet during a two -day visit to Guyana and witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Utilisation of the Haitian National Traceability System in Guyana.

President Donald Ramotar meeting with Caricom’s Chairman and Haitian President, His Excellency Michel Martelly

In the CARICOM region, President Ramotar joined Heads of State of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to re-enact the signing of the signed the treaty of Chaguramas in honour of the 40th anniversary of the signing of the treaty, and occurred as regional leaders met in Trinidad and Tobago for the 34th regular meeting of CARICOM in July.

President Donald Ramotar signs the commemorative document in honour of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Caribbean Community (Caricom)

 

International Agenda

President Donald Ramotar urged the international community to seriously consider meaningful assistance to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) by supporting the establishment of a special, easily accessible fund that will aid in resilience building and disaster risk management. This urging was made as he addressed the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

President Donald Ramotar delivering address the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly

His advocacy for standing forests continued at a Sustainable Development Summit in the Indian capital, New Delhi where he was joined by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and by Nobel Prize Laureate Dr. R.K Pachauri.

He also joined 51 high level officials including Heads of State and Government in Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting where he remarked on the intergovernmental organisation remaining relevant in a world facing many political, socio-economic and environmental problems.

 

Paying tribute to a global hero

Following the death of former South African President and anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, President Ramotar joined over 90 world leaders in December at a memorial for the fallen hero in Johannesburg.  Prior to that, he issued a condolence message in which he stated that, “the struggle he led with other distinguished anti-apartheid fighters has entered into the annals of world history as one of the most defining periods in our world. However, it was not only the struggle, but the manner in which it was conducted which will always remain an example and an inspiration for others working for social and economic justice everywhere.”

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