The fire, which gutted the five-room zinc shack on Pagos Island, Congo Town, left a man, his wife, and three children dead.The Pagos Island community in Congo Town was a scene of grief and disbelief when a fire incident that awakened the community early Thursday morning left an entire family dead.The fire, which gutted the five-room zinc shack, left a man, his wife, and three children dead. Eleven other occupants of the house were fortunate to escape death, eyewitnesses said.Neighbors wept for their losses.An eyewitness told the Daily Observer that the fire, which started around 3 a.m., might have been caused by faulty electrical wiring, though this is yet to be independently confirmed.The victims included Emmanuel Morris, 28; his girlfriend Felicia, their son Leroy, and a set of twins.Emmanuel’s mother, Rebecca Morris, wept uncontrollably, but managed to explain that her son was the breadwinner for her family.Mrs. Morris, the Daily Observer learned, is no stranger to grief. Fifteen years ago (November 2003) she lost her husband, and had to cater to their nine children. Emmanuel eventually emerged as the man of the family; and through him, she was able to bring the rest of the children up.“I sold ‘bonny’ [fish] in Buchanan until we moved to this island. Every morning I go to Red Light to buy bitter balls to sell until my son grew up and started working, which improved our lives. He was the one that built this house for me,” she said.Rebecca said she was asleep when she heard people calling her that her son’s house was on fire.“I woke up and rushed there only to discover that the fire was coming from my son’s room,” she said. “Everybody in the house came out safe except my son and his family.”Rebecca meanwhile appealed to the Liberian government, NGOs, and other Liberians to come to her assistance so that she can support her remaining children, because “the eyes I used are gone. My children and I are wasting outside, no pa, the person that was helping us is gone.”Boima Johnson, one of the survivors, said he was in bed when he heard what sounded like ‘fire’ in the house, and heard Emmanuel saying he could not find his way out.“I told Emmanuel to go through the window so I can help him, but he later told me that he cannot make it because his eyes were dark,” Johnson said.He said the death of Emmanuel and his family is a big loss to Pagos Island residents.Suku Messah, community chairman, said they are trying to console the family to recover from their loss.Messah said the house was made of zinc and mat, with just one door, which made it difficult for the victims to find their way out to safety, since the fire came from the fifth room in the zinc house.He said the community provided a pickup truck to take the bodies for burial.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The embattled Associate Justice, Kabineh Ja’nehAbout 200 lawyers have threatened to begin a week-long boycott of the courts, from next month (September), in protest against what they claim is disobedience by lawmakers from the Lower House to honor the Supreme Court’s stay order hearing over impeachment proceedings against Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh.The August 18 stay order was imposed by Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh, current Chamber Justice against some members of the House of Representatives, including Speaker Bhofal Chambers, to desist from any impeachment proceedings against Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, pending final determination, by the Full Bench of the Supreme Court. of the Justice’s complaint of constitutional violation by the House of RepresentativesMembers of the House were cited to a hearing on the matter at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, August 22, but refused to appear. Instead, in a written message, they told the High Court to “vacate the purported stay order and avoid embarrassment.”Disclosing their planned protest on yesterday to journalists, Cllr. Arthur Johnson said, the lawmakers’ decision to disregard the Court’s order is an act that is not only inimical to the rule of law but also completely at odds with the Constitution.Johnson, who is one of the lawyers of the embattled Ja’neh, said yesterday that the protest was not about the political interest of anyone, rather about justice, “It is in the defense of the rule of law.”Johnson disclosed that during the protest every lawyer will be required to sit home and avoid every court activity as of September.“It should always be the lawmakers that demonstrate to the citizens, by their example and conduct, the importance of strictly adhering to and respecting the law,” Johnson emphasized.“When a government shows contempt for the law it becomes impossible for it to require citizens to respect the law,” Johnson said, defending the planned protest.According to Johnson, to disobey court orders as in the case of the lawmakers was “inimical to the rule of law.”He reminded members of the House of Representatives that they took an oath of office to protect and uphold the Constitution, “so disobeying it will have serious consequences to the peace and stability of the country and our young democracy.”To disobey a Court order, Johnson believes, was not only a violation of the Constitution but also negligence of public duty. He meanwhile called on the lawmakers to see reason, in the interest of the country and to protect the rule of law, to attend the next scheduled court’s hearing.A source in the hierarchy of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) who preferred not to be named, told the Daily Observer that the Bar “is not aware of any protest by lawyers” and therefore will not be a part of said protest. “Lawyers are mediators, not protestors,” the Bar official said in a phone interview.However, a mobile text message (SMS) calling for the protest went viral among lawyers on Monday, August 27. Yet, many who received the message remained mute over whether they would participate or not.And although the LNBA has yet to officially speak on the entire Ja’neh impeachment saga, official said the Bar is preparing a statement to be issued soon.Despite the lawmakers’ refusal to attend the August 22 hearing, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and his colleagues, excluding the embattled Justice Ja’neh, who had openly announced his recusal from the Bench for that case, proceeded with the matter, with his representation by a team of lawyers.Surprisingly, Justice Korkpor postponed the matter, after Ja’neh’s lead lawyer, Cllr. James E. Pierre asked for an additional week to prepare for the hearing into the writ because, according to him, the issue raised by the lawmakers contained serious study and they need enough time to file a well-researched defense for Justice Ja’neh.It can be recalled that on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, the Bill of Impeachment Petition, together with a motion proffered by Grand Kru County District #1 Representative Nathaniel Barway, received a favorable vote in the House of Representatives. Shortly afterward, Speaker Chambers set up an 8-man Ad-Hoc Committee to review and investigate the Impeachment Bill as well as the write-up of the proceedings.That committee was given three weeks as of July 17, 2018, to begin work and report to Plenary.The committee is chaired by Gbarpolu County District#2 Representative Kannie Wesso and co-chaired by Bong County District #5 Representative Edward Karfiah.Others were Representatives Dickson Seboe of District 16, Montserrado County; Jeremiah Koung of District #1, Nimba County; Dr. Isaac Roland of District 3, Maryland County; Clarence Gahr of District #5, Margibi County, and Rustonlyn S. Dennis of District#4, Montserrado County.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Madam Kula Fofana speaking at Robertsport High SchoolPeople’s Foundation Africa (PFA) concluded nearly a month-long tutorial for high school students in the Commonwealth and Gawula School Districts of Grand Cape Mount County. According to the President Madam Kula Nyei Fofana, this was her institution’s way of contributing to the county’s education sector.Students of Grand Cape Mount County have over the years underperformed in the West African Examination Council (WAEC), now West African Senior School Certification Exam (WASSCE), and has been attributed to the poor state of the country’s education system, according to Madam Fofana.The tutorial classes focused on eight of the nine subjects including Math, English, Geography, History, Physics, Economics, Biology, and Chemistry. Among the seven high schools earmarked, Robertsport High School, Alwelayah Islamic High School, AGM, St. John Episcopal and Methodist High School showed interest in the classes.Madam Fofana called on sons and daughters of the county to join efforts to save the county’s appalling and rapidly declining education system. She said it was disheartening to learn during an assessment visit that some of the high schools had not seen teachers of geography, history and other subjects since the beginning of the school year and that the majority, if not all the schools, are ill-prepared to sit the exams. She hopes that her effort, as minimal as it may seem, will create an impact.The exam is expected to begin Wednesday, April 24, 2019, across the country. The tutorial classes were held in partnership with the Cape Mount University Students Union (CAMUSU). She further thanked CAMUSU for the commitment of the volunteer tutors and looked to future partnership and collaboration.Also speaking was the President of CAMUSU, Mr. Mohammed Degbo, who extended appreciation to Madam Fofana and team for the level of patience, partnership, and cooperation.“This is the first time for such a program in our county and we look forward to future collaboration from Madam Fofana and PFA” Mr. Degbo said. Also speaking was Ms. Fatumata Jalloh, the only female among the tutors, who said it was concerning to realize that twelfth grade students couldn’t read simple passages, something that is often seen in the exams. “I must admit that I underestimated the challenges in our school system until I volunteered to be a tutor for the upcoming WASSCE,” Ms. Jalloh intoned. Madam Kpana Gaygay, PFA’s Program Associate and coordinator of the tutorials, sees it as a wake-up call for the government and partners to improve focus on literacy and numeracy skills for the students. She was also happy that young people can come together for a good cause such as education.Despite the broader challenges, Madam Fofana hopes that this can be replicated in other districts in the county and country. However, with its meager resources, PFA can do just so much. She also thanked Mobilizing for Cape Mount and other donors who contributed to the success of the program. Funds were raised through Gofundme, a fundraising platform, and mobile money contributions.People’s Foundation Africa works with challenged, poor and hard-to-reach communities on education, health, agriculture, mentorship, and tourism. The foundation is expected to be officially launched in Monrovia soon.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
New ChairmanBy Jarryl BryanThe sordid revelations of procurement abuse at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), as highlighted by a special audit from the Auditor General’s office, are among the issues which Commissioners expect to have their new Chairman confront.GECOM Chairman Justice (R’td) James PattersonDuring the absence of a Chairman, there had been reports of no meetings being held and the contents of the explosive audit not being addressed. According to GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj, the issue is now on the front burner with the appointment.“Yes, we’ve been having regular meetings. The issue of the GECOM audit report has been raised and we are putting ourselves in a state of readiness to discuss the report. We’re still getting accustom to the new Chairman but other than that, I think we are well on track to have the issues we want discussed, discussed.”Gunraj noted that coming out of the controversy, substantial issues such as procurement practises at the Commission will be addressed. This is even as the Commission must get ready for upcoming Local Government Elections, followed by General and Regional Elections.“There are obviously larger issues of procurement practises and methods at the Commission, as well as specific issues that were raised in the reports. That is to say, the specific items raised in the reports.”The auditA special audit was launched last year after the Audit Office of Guyana reportedly noticed some discrepancies with the purchasing of 50 VHF communication radios by GECOM for close to $100 million.The purchases had occurred prior to the May 2015 General and Regional Elections. It raised concerns over the extraordinarily high cost of the equipment. The investigation’s scope had included contracts and inventories, in addition to spending for the May 2015 General and Regional Elections.It is understood that auditors were working from GECOM’s head office in High Street, Kingston. Besides the radios, some of the things that the State’s auditors were looking into were the purchase of a quantity of toners, pliers and batteries.Based on reports, the radio sets were purchased for use during the 2015 General and Regional Elections, particularly in the outlying regions of Guyana; however, they were never put into use after it was discovered many of them were not working.Later, information surfaced that while the electoral body would have collected quotations from a number of suppliers, it handed the contract for the supply of the equipment to Mobile Authority, a company owned by a Water Street, Georgetown businessman.But media reports later surfaced that some of the equipment purchased was obsolete and was not covered by warranty. As a matter of fact, sections of the Guyanese media reported that the Australia-based manufacturer, Barrett Communications, through its European office, distanced itself from the purchase.The company made it clear that it had ceased to produce the equipment more than five years ago. Barrett said it had also tendered through the Advanced Office Systems for the supply of new radio equipment for the 2015 elections. However, GECOM subsequently cancelled the order.The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has been calling for the release of the findings, in addition to questioning the deafening silence of GECOM’s then outgoing Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally and the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, on the matter.For its part, GECOM has in the past defended itself against the audit by noting that because of the prorogued Parliament, it was forced to operate in unusual circumstances.
…as Demerara Assizes opensThe January Assizes for Demerara opened at the Supreme Court in Georgetown on Tuesday with much pomp and ceremony.However, a tall task lies ahead as there are 229 criminal cases listed to be heard during the session, which will be presided over by three Judges: Justice Navindra Singh, Justice James Bovell-Drakes and Madam Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall.Justice James Bovell-Drakes inspecting the Guard of Honour on Tuesday’s opening of the Demerara AssizesDuring the ceremony, senior and junior ranks of the Guyana Police Force were adorned in their ceremonial wear as they marched in unison, reflecting the discipline that the law enforcement unit is expected to maintain.Horsemen, trumpeters and other band members played melodies that captivated downtown Georgetown. Veteran High Court Judge, Justice Bovell-Drakes, who is sitting this session, took the salute in the presence of other Judges, including acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC. Members of the public who were given court summonses appeared before the Judges as potential jurists.
– as concerns raised over capacity to fully support ventureBy Jarryl BryanThe Witness Protection Bill 2017, one of two pieces of legislation designed to encourage and protect whistleblowers, was passed on Friday in the National Assembly.According to the parliamentary Opposition, however, it is a deficient bill coming at a time when the institutional capacity to support same is lacking.The Witness Protection Bill being debated in the National AssemblyIn his presentation, Opposition Parliamentarian Odinga Lumumba argued that the bill is being tabled at a time when Guyana does not have the capacity to support the bill’s provisions. He questioned whether there are provisions to fund relocated witnesses, or even to facilitate the integration of juvenile participants of the programme into the school system.Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman acknowledged the concerns raised by Lumumba, but noted that time is of the essence with the oil industry impending. According to the minister, with the coming of oil, new threats would arise, and the Government could not wait.“This bill is part of the continuum towards (regional security). We will be protecting witnesses from a certain category of crime when violence or the threat of violence is made,” Trotman explained in his presentation.He referred to the current regional security status, where legislation must be put in place that will foster regional cooperation. Trotman also noted that if one refers to witness protection programmes in the United States and other jurisdictions, no programme is perfect.On the matter of financing for the Witness Protection Programme, Trotman expressed hope in Finance Minister Winston Jordan handling this.“Copy and paste”Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira categorised the bill as another work of “copy and paste”. According to Teixeira, the original bill the former administration drafted in 2006 has returned to the house 11 years later with little to no changes.Teixeira noted that there are even omissions when compared to the previous bill. While she stressed that in principle the PPP support bills offering protection to whistleblowers and witnesses, she said that much more work could have been done on this bill. As such, she argued for the bill to be sent to a select committee.But according to Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams, some flaws pointed out by the Opposition are actually not reflective of the bill’s contents. He refuted one charge from the Opposition — that excessive Government oversight had been put into the witness protection programme.Williams insisted that he has no operational or managerial role in relation to the bill, while the President can only review petitions from a participant who is cut from the programme. In light of this, the question was put, and the bill was passed in the National Assembly.The bill is expected to complement the Protected Disclosures Bill which had been passed the day previous.The billPart VI of the long-awaited bill binds anyone, including participants or former participants, from disclosing information in relation to the programme. The penalty for breaching this provision is a $1 million fine and 10 years in prison.According to Section 20 (1), this law applies to anyone who, without lawful authority, reveals information about the identity or location of someone who had participated in the witness protection programme which can compromise that person’s safety.Section 20 (2) stipulates that someone who had undergone assessment to be considered for inclusion in the programme is barred from revealing their participation. They also cannot provide information as to the modus operandi of the programme.The Witness Protection Bill makes provision for an administrative centre which would handle identity changes. The bill also allows for the centre to withdraw this protection and restore the identity of the former participant, in which case he or she is allowed 28 days to apply to the President of Guyana for a review of the centre’s decision.Lack of witnessesThe Police have for years complained about difficulties with certain crimes, owing to the lack of witnesses. Some have posited that crimes are recorded as unsolved or remain a mystery possibly because witnesses are not brave enough to testify, or they are afraid to be held accountable for someone’s sentencing.At a recent seminar, Principal Parliamentary Counsel Joann Bond pointed out that the Witness Protection Programme is designed to protect persons involved in both civil and criminal matters.The administrative centre, she had explained, would then collaborate with the Head of State, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and the Commissioner of Police.
The Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) has expressed no confidence in the work of Regional Executive Officer, Rupert Hopkinson, following a series of irregularities uncovered in relation to the management of the region’s budgetary allocation.REO Rupert HopkinsonIn a statement, Regional Chairman Devanand Ramdatt said the RDC is dissatisfied with its REO’s actions and repeated efforts were made to have Hopkinson to act in compliance with the financial regulations. He added that several times the RDC would have made requests for details regarding management of the budget and procurement process but those were denied.“Hopkinson as the accounting officer fails to follow recommendations and decisions taken by the RDC at its statutory meetings. Due to such negligence and incompetence, the REO who also serves as Clerk of the RDC has created numerous pending matters that residents, more precisely students are affected,” he said.“Despite a number of audit queries over the years, this accounting officer continues to breach procurement, financial guidelines and regulations,” Ramdatt added.At a recent statutory meeting of the RDC, a number of issues came to the fore and both the Government and Opposition Councillors expressed their disappointment with the decisions of the REO.The matters discussed involved the abuse of millions of dollars from the RDC’s Economic Project Amounts; poor implementation of projects that have already started in 2018; delays in signing vouchers; insanitary and unsafe conditions of many schools; and persons contracted to clean school compounds and road shoulders have been waiting to be paid since 2017 and 2016 respectively.Hopkinson was recently dragged before the PAC for mismanagement of the region’s funds. He told the PAC that the projects were considered to be emergencies, hence the reason for his management.He instead highlighted a number of projects that are considered emergencies in the region that the REO should have focused on.“Fixing the Capoey Primary School Septic Tank; address the poor conditions at the Charity Secondary School; install a generator at Public Hospital Suddie that was affected whenever there was a blackout; cleaning of the Hackney-Friendship canals, preparation of access dams and maintenance of drainage and irrigation structures in cultivation areas; and fix rapidly deteriorating community roads,” were some of the emergency works highlighted.The Regional Chairman has since reiterated that the Council has no confidence in the REO.
Six residents of Campbellville Housing Scheme in Georgetown on Friday appeared before Georgetown Magistrate Leron Daly to answer a total of 14 assault charges altogether.Crystal Burrowes, Tiffany Adams, Shyon Adams, Moses Adams and Terrence Forde all pleaded not guilty to the charges that were read to them; while Atesha Burrowes pleaded guilty with an explanation.The Prosecution’s facts presented to the court state that the Burroweses and the Adamses used threatening language against each other on May 25 and May 28, 2018, and the incident ended up in a brawl.Atesha Burrowes told the court that she went to visit her mother, who lives next door to the Adams family. She said her mother asked her to open the shop which she operates, and upon doing so, she made contact with Shyon Adams, and an argument ensued.The two allegedly became abusive while using threating language to each other, and this caused relatives of each party to intervene.Atesha Burrowes was fined $10,000 for abusive language and $10,000 for breaching the peace. Crystal Burrows was fined $10,000 for abusive language, and placed on $15,000 bail for breaching the peace; and Shyon Adams, Tiffany Adams, Moses Adams and Terrence Forde were each placed on $15,000 bail.The matter is expected to continue of June 8.
The six most outstanding students of the Little Red Village Primary School, Onderneeming, Essequibo Coast were recently honoured by Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) Youth and Culture Officer Herald Alves.Region Two Youth and Culture Officer Herald Alves posed with the children and two parentsAs an encouragement for students in the far-flung areas of the Region, Alves decided to honour the six best all-round students by rewarding them with a backpack and school items.The Head Mistress of the school was very thankful for the kind gesture, noting that the presentation would help to motivate students to work harder for a better and brighter future, especially those in the far-flung areas who are seldom remembered.In addition, two parents were honoured for their support towards the school. The gifts were donated by the Youth and Culture Department of Region Two, Andrea Benjamin and KEY International.
…bridge linking villages destroyedResidents of the Amerindian community of Wakapau, Pomeroon, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) are displeased with the demolition of a functional bridge that provided full access in and out of the community. They are now appealing to the relevant authorities for swift efforts to be taken into the reconstruction of the bridge.The destroyed bridgeIn addition, the bridge also served as a linkage to the community of Akawini. According to reports reaching Guyana Times, the discovery of the dismantled connections was made by residents who were about to use the bridge on October 26, 2018.The bridge is utilised by both communities, mainly for logging, since this is the main source of income in both communities. The residents of Wakapau believe that due to a boundary dispute between the two communities, someone may have decided to destroy the bridge, using a chainsaw to cut the logs into pieces with the intention of stopping all tractors from transporting logs from Akawini to Wakapau.The Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry has been informed of the incident, which resulted in Minister Valerie Garrido-Lowe visiting the area last Saturday, along with several Police. Investigations have led to the arrest of a suspect from Akawini.Residents have since expressed deep concern over the incident and are pleading for investigations to be done speedily, along with assistance for the fixing of the damaged bridge so that their livelihood would not be further hindered. The probe is still ongoing.