With respect to KN’s news story, “This type of action deserves protest,” (August 4), attributed to PNCR and Opposition Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin, a cursory review of this timeline of a horrendous sell-out reveals that in May, 2009, Head of the Privatisation Unit, Mr. Winston Brassington, following GT&T’s Annual General Meeting, announced that the Government was offering Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN), the majority shareholder of GT&T, the opportunity to buy the 20% shares.
The manner in which this was done, reportedly drew the anger of GT&T’s Chief Executive Officer Major General (ret’d) Joe Singh, who then said that the offer by Government to sell its shares to ATN would be considered by the board of the company. Subsequent to that, ATN reached a decision rejecting the offer to buy Government’s 20% share, and the only logical conclusion I came to was that if ATN bought those shares, it would be aiding and abetting the rise of its competitor: the Guyana Government. But what would give ATN/GT&T such an idea?
On May 14, 2009 , SN, reported President Jagdeo as stating that ‘money from the sale of GT&T shares (will go) to develop the ICT sector’. The President also reportedly said while Government remains committed to a liberalized telecommunications sector, this does not mean that the administration has to do the investments itself.
However, the Government will move to increase internet penetration within Guyana by subsidising the cost of internet bandwidth. So the Government’s intention of getting into the bandwidth business was clear since May last year.
On May 29, 2009, Stabroek Business then carried a news story, “New fibre optic cable will put country on brink of ICT breakthrough – Singh,” in which then GT&T CEO Mr. Singh, reportedly said of the local telecommunications company’s US$30M investment in the new cable system, “(It) will help realise everything that the President (Jagdeo) has been saying about a national ICT strategy, including the creation of an IT village and marketing Guyana as a destination for the establishment of Call Centres; retooling the system of administration using e-governance; dealing with and addressing issues like Distance Learning. All of these things will be facilitated because of the reliability, capacity, redundancy and affordability arising from the installation of the cable.”
In addition, Mr. Singh told Stabroek Business that the cable will provide the capacity for additional telecommunications links between Guyana and the Brazilian states of Roraima and Amazonas. So GT&T’s intention to expand its bandwidth provision was clear since May last year.
In July 2009, the PNCR reportedly suggested that ‘GT&T shares be sold to its workers’, and after nothing came of that suggestion, the PNCR tabled a parliamentary motion in October, 2009, for a review of the Government’s decision to sell its GT&T shares, but it was defeated.
In January this year, CaribbeanPressReleases.com carried a news story
captioned, “Guyana: President discloses plan for second fibre optic cable from Brazil,” in which it reported that, ‘Government is in the process of procuring the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the introduction of a second fibre optic cable from neighbouring Brazil, which is anticipated to arrive in Georgetown by the second quarter of this year’.
It further quoted the President as saying, “This cable would be dedicated purely to E-Governance… and we hope that we can work with GT&T (Guyana Telephone and Telegraph) to swap capacity on these cables so that we’ll have greater reliability, greater redundancy.” He reiterated however, ‘that this new plan is in no way intended to infringe on GT&T’s ability to earn money but part of the commitment of the Government to ensure that Guyana benefits from as many fibre optic cables as possible’. Sounded too good to be true?
Fast forward to July 29, 2010, when GT&T finally commissioned its promised project, and there was President Jagdeo, talking up the importance of the project coming on stream, but also stealing GT&T’s thunder or raining on its parade by offering to sell US$30M worth of computer laptops to poor families. That promise was quickly followed by a second, though less specific, promise: those families may (that) not be able to afford broadband service initially may receive some assistance from the state. Now, what exactly does this ‘assistance’ entail?
Editor, I plead ignorance on the real definition of E-Governance, but if it is not aimed at competing with GT&T, then why would Government look to dump US$5M a year in income for doing absolutely nothing but simply retain its 20% shares? And normally, the major shareholder in a successful company will look to snatch up other shares as they become available, so by refusing to buy Government’s shares, hasn’t ATN sent a powerful message that it realised Government was getting involved in the same ICT business as GT&T, thereby competing with GT&T?
If so, this is no different from the questionable public-private partnership Marriott hotel project that will compete with other local hoteliers, because while the President said (in paragraph four above) the administration will not do telecommunications investments itself, he turned around and made his Government the lead player by making investments anyway, leaving us to now believe this E-Governance concept may be another public-private partnership in which public funds are being used for projects that will eventually be privately owned. If this E-Governance concept project eventually goes fully private, then will the sole private owners here be the same people who are awarded the government’s 20% GT&T shares?
I said before I have no problem with Government investing in pubic-private partnerships, but because of Government’s utter disregard for the people’s right to know how or why their money is being spent, all Guyanese have to keep raising questions, if not pure hell, to determine what exactly Government is doing with their money in these public-private projects that seem destined to financially benefit a chosen few.
Also, Guyana has a population of about 700,000 of which we have no idea how many own a computer, can afford internet services, or are even computer literate, so unless government is helping fund the setting-up of private-owned Call Centers to compete with India, then we need to know why government is rushing to spend hundreds of millions of public dollars in an area of business that will put it in direct competition with another private sector investor providing the same service to a small Internet user population?
Burnham’s policies were tailored and fashioned to meet every Guyanese
August 6, 2010 will mark 25 years since the death of Guyana’s first Executive President and Founder Leader of the Peoples National Congress (PNC), Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.
As a nation we should use his 25th anniversary to reflect on the invaluable contribution, and monumental legacy this great son of the soil has left us. As we reflect we must also take time out to focus on the relevance of his policies, even today.
The very policies and programmes that some, during those days of the Burnham/PNC government criticised as soon as they were announced. I recall his policy to “Feed, Clothe, and House the Nation” (FCH), which some, even within his government, thought was too ambitious, but Burnham demonstrated commitment to his vision by embarking on specific programmes that gave meaning to his policy and realise his plan.
As such Guyana saw the birth of the Textile Mills, a robust agricultural sector with rice and sugar leading the way, followed by a fully diversified agri-sector. We saw the birth of an agricultural bank (GAIBANK) which provided loans to many farmers, to aid the expansion and development of the agricultural sector. Burnham’s policies were tailored and fashioned to meet every Guyanese, his “buy local” theme ricochet throughout the country and stuck with many, who ensured that they utilized every inch of ground to plant a pigeon pea tree, a carambola plant, some bora or anything that can be consumed. Yes, it was under Burnham’s presidency that Guyana became known as the “bread basket of the Caribbean”.
We must not forget! We should also note that the present “Grow more Food” campaign, however disguised, cannot replace the Burnham “Buy Local” campaign and what that campaign achieved. It is interesting though, that those who once criticised and sabotaged this very programme are now grudgingly supporting it, albeit in disguised. But Guyanese know Buy Local when they see it, even when it is wrapped in a “Grow More Food” towel.
Just recently, I heard the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Robert Persaud, announced the his Ministry will be embarking on a major economic venture at Hope Estate, what he did not do was to tell the people that it is the same Hope Estate that Burnham maintained through massive self help effort. He did not tell the people that it is the same Hope Estate that the PPP referred to as Burnham’s slave camp which they sabotaged time and again.
Again, they are now benefiting from his vision and policies. They are also now realising that electricity can be generated from a hydro
system, after Forbes have already done the preliminary work.
Regarding his housing policy LFSB ensured that his housing policy was one that put Guyanese in “homes” and not in a “house”. Many housing schemes were built with all the requisite amenities available before families were moved in to occupy. It was the total opposite to what is happening now, where Guyanese pay half a million, to 1.8 million dollars for a piece of forest to build their house. By the time they have cleared the jungle another two million dollars have been spent. The government boasts of its massive housing drive, but we forget that what is passing for housing development can never be compared to what Burnham and the PNC did in this area. We must not forget that many of those housing schemes, built since the early days of the PNC government, are still standing.
Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham (LFSB) is regarded by many as a man who came before his time, his vision for Guyana and his passion to ensure the total development of Guyanese, led him to develop many policies and embark on many programmes to, as his slogan said, “make the small man the real man”.
Apart from developing robust policies to ensure Guyanese most basic needs are satisfied, he placed a high value on youth development and education, as such a policy of free education from nursery to university was adopted. His mission to ensure that the country prepare a training ground to nurture and train its youth for leadership role in the country, resulted in the creation of his model school “President’s College”.
Today, his critics and those who have no understanding of the importance of trained human capital, are doing everything in their power to reduce that institution to nothingness. Only a few days ago the Minister of Education, Mr. Shaik Baksh, made remarks to the effect that the school was never one of the top secondary schools. But we are aware that this vindictive government is on a mission to erase everything which speaks to Burnham’s memory, and legacy. But the fact is, it will not happen, history was written.
Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham has certainly made his mark on Guyana’s soil, he has promoted every possible policy he thought was relevant to forging a harmonious society. The acknowledge and recognition of our different backgrounds, culture and ethnicity led to us having holidays to celebrate our diversity, while promoting unity.
As we celebrate 25 years after Burnham we must examine what is happening today and ask whether those who sought to vilify him were justified in doing so, if they claim they were; I would only wish to ask how they would describe this current regime. This regime which touts itself as democratic but still; demonstrates how it can; suppress free speech, discriminate against citizens, breach the constitution, seems to promote torture, aid corruption, sponsors death squads, apparently establish links with “king pins”, among other wrongs.
Twenty five years after LFSB Guyana has succumbed to a country where crime and criminality grips every village, town and street. Yes, 25 years later we have moved 26 steps backwards, where fear hangs over the nation like a heavy blanket. So, will the critics say the fear that exists in Guyana today is one that can be justified?
Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham has made some mistakes, along the way, but which leader doesn’t? He certainly can be criticised but those who set out to vilify him ought to use the same time to acknowledge the difference he has made in shaping our nation and in blazing the trail for us.
I believe he wanted, us to have too much too soon, this might be as a result of his natural love for his people and his passion for our development.
As people we should be proud to be associated with his name and memory, those who advance a theory that the PNCR should apologise for Burnham and the PNC government have not yet come to neither understand nor appreciate the legacy. Further, these people might be caught up in their own self aggrandizement campaign, or a political strategy hinged on some kind of “contradicting expediency”.
As we commemorate 25 years after the true Father of the Nation, and the Caribbean Man of the 20th Century, let us be reminded that his hope has always been a united Guyana, one where the motto of “One People; One Nation; One Destiny must be achieved.
His memory lives on!
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