St. Lucia based Guyanese embrace their President!

The Heads of Government Conference held in St. Lucia 16 & 17 of August, 2002 provided the Guyana-St. Lucia Association an opportunity for their membership and the wider Guyanese community to embrace their President - His Excellence Bharat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana.
The President and his party which included Honourable Clement Rohee - Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Ambassador Elizabeth Harper - Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ms. Tamara Whalen - Caricom Desk Officer, office of the President headed straight to the Indies Conference Centre upon arrival at the Vigie Airport on the evening of Thursday 15 August, 2002. On His Excellency's arrival at the Indies just moments before 7:00 p.m., he was garlanded by a young lady and headed through the corridor to the reception area where he was greeted by cheers from the packed hall.
The programme which was oganised by President Bishnu Tulsie and members of the Executive of the Guyana-St. Lucia Association in collaboration with the Hononary Consul for the Republic of Guyana, Mr. Lokesh Singh.
I am under no illusion that everyone gathered was of the same political persuasion but one thing that was evident was that Guyanese embraced their President and were on their best behaviour. It was a demonstration that Guyanese people have the capacity to live together even as we do here in St. Lucia. The Executive of the Association is indicative of such a situation. It was a privilege and a pleasure for me to be the master of ceremonies for such a momentous occasion.
We heard from our President and it is so unfortunate that only the bad things like the murders of policemen in the line of duty that attract the attention of journalists in Guyana. What about the good things that are happening inspite of an unco-operative opposition?
President Jagdeo made it abundantly clear that he is willing to co-operate but there is only so much he can do. However, he was optimistic that the Party Congress which would be held within days would result in a return to the negotiating table.
Some highlights of President Jagdeo's speech as listed here under:-
(1) Guyana forecasted a 2% growth rate, it is now anticipated to be around 3.4%.
(2) 50,000 Guyanese got house lots.
(3) There are 30,000 state employees.
(4) To ensure good governance there are a number of commissions.
   (a) Integrity Commission
   (b) Ethnic Relations
   (c) Procurement
   (d) Human Rights Gender and Equality.
   (e) Child Rights
The constitution was changed in 2001 and to sit on any Commission, the person must get two third's support of the House of Assembly.
President Jagdeo stressed that with inclusivity comes responsibility. The opposition must be prepared to sit down and talk. He said that Guyana has the resources to make all its people comfortable. The will to move forward is necessary.
(5) With respect to crime there are five escaped prisoners, equipped with heavy weapons shooting at police. There is need to change the policing method, Scotland Yard is assisting. Intelligence gathering would be restructured. Mr. Felix who will assume duty as Police Commissioner, effective January 1, 2003 will leave for overseas shortly to acquire protective gear and fire power for his men. The Government will spend $100,000,000.00 in equipping the police force.
(6) There are tremendous economic problems facing the region. Major dislocation in agriculture and other industries pose potential risk to stability, noted that Paddy was being dumped in the Jamaica market. Unfair practices in the Financial Sector. Criminal Deportees over 700 in Guyana and have brought sophistication into crime.
(7) No one country can face these challenges alone and there is need to act in concert.
(8) Guyana's macro economic environment debt burden and salaries took up 100% of revenue and as much as 114% a few years. Had the highest foreign debt - 2 billion dollars, now down to 1 billion - 130 million to service debt now down to 40 million . Inflation was high.
Interest rates now 14% all these factors result in a stable macro environment.
(9) The infrastructure is being rebuilt.
(10) Traditional industries are being restructured to be much more cost competitive. Eco-Tourism, Semi Precious Stones, High Quality Products. There is a major thrust in the field of IT Industries which will employ several thousands.
(11) Generally, Guyanese have a major political challenge as confrontational politics is being practiced. President Jagdeo said he is fed up with confrontational politics. He said he is pinning his hope on the young generation. He doesn't want to look to the past but rather to the future.
(12) President Jagdeo responded to many questions from the audience.
Other activities of the evening included:-
(1) Welcome remarks were given by President Bishnu Tulsie who introduced the members of his Executive.
(2) Overview of Guyanese contribution to St. Lucia society was given by Mr. Lokesh Singh, Honorary Consul to St. Lucia. The three Honorees who were honoured by the Association at the 2002 Guyana Republic Day Anniversary function in February for their outstanding contributions to St. Lucia and other Caribbean communities in their respected areas of endeavour included:-
(a) Mr. Madho Beepat for outstanding contribution to Business. He was unavoidably absent but was represented by his sons Neil and Brian Beepat.
(b) Mr. Joseph Reds Perreira for outstanding contribution to sports.
(c) Mr. Jeffrey Jones for outstanding academic achievement at the Cambridge A Level Exams 2001 with 3 As and 1 B. He is currently out of state but was represented by his parents - Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Jones.
The Guyana National Cricket Team was introduced to the audience by their Manager, Mr. Patrick Legall.
(3) A cheque was presented to Ms. Joan Didier, Executive Director of the St. Lucia Aids Action Foundation by President Bishnu Tulsie.
(4) Mr. Earl Bousquet introduced His Excellency President Bharat Jagdeo.
(5) Mr. Devon Barrow, a Guyanese National played the National Anthems of Guyana and St. Lucia on the steel pan.
(6) Mrs. Ella Gillette gave the Invocation and Ms. Felicia Abdool moved the Vote of Thanks.
On completion of the official programme, President Jagdeo and Party mingled freely with persons present and continued to answer their questions. As would be expected a good stock of Eldorado Rum was on hand along with specially prepared Guyanese food.
It was an occasion that will long be remembered. God bless you all.

August 24, 2002