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APNU, AFC presidential candidates undergo public scrutiny

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APNU presidential candidate David Granger,Merundoi’s Margaret Lawrence and the AFC’s Khemraj Ramjattan

Alliance For Change (AFC) presidential candidate Khemraj Ramjattan says his party would rather remain in opposition than join another to create a parliamentary majority following the November 28 general and regional elections.

His comment was in response to a question from the audience at Wednesday’s Merundoi-organised Presidential Forum which was also attended by APNU’s David Granger.

To listen to a podcast of the event, please click the GREEN PLAY BUTTON {play}http://blip.tv/file/get/Cntwebcasting-MerundoiPresidentialForum828.mp3{/play}

“At this stage we will not join up, what we gonna do is remain in opposition. Whether my national executive makes a decision that is against that well fine, we can then, but we prefer to have at that stage … a government of national unity incorporating all parties,” Ramjattan stated.

The two candidates were given 10 minutes each to outline their messages to the scores of invitees who turned up at the Theatre Guild Playhouse and then fielded questions from moderator and media consultant Abraham Poole and the audience. Their answers were restricted to one and a half minutes at the maximum.

The candidates were also asked how they intended to heal Guyana of racism.

In his response Granger said that racism was deeply embedded and was something people were fed from the time they were children. According to him, that is where the solution has to start.

“We have to start with an education system and we do not have yet in Guyana which deals with this problem of racism. It has to be part of the education system to let young children know that they are equal … have the same rights,” the APNU candidate stated.

He added that the issue could also be tackled through sporting activities which bring young people together.   

Ramjattan concurred that part of the solution rests with children stating that they must be so nurtured from young to appreciate others.

“Families in the very homes that we come from must be counselled or at least given education through the television and through talks at schools that we must not utilise remarks and language that profiles the other,” he added.

 A question about their first order of business to tackle corruption saw Ramjattan responding that the AFC’s first act would be the establishment of the Procurement Commission.

“It is the body that has been established under the constitution to scrutinise all contracts for services and goods which has not as yet been implemented very surprisingly. Along with that is to ensure an extremely professional anti-corruption squad that will deal with fraud in the country at large,” he stated.

Those two things, the AFC candidate said, they can do almost immediately on assuming office.

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A section of the audience at the Theatre Guild

Granger for his part said he would establish commissions of inquiry to determine where are the weak spots in the government system and to identify the areas that need correcting.

“Secondly, strengthen the CID which has been badly weakened over the last 10 years because its main functions have been paralysed in order to facilitate what I consider state-sponsored criminality. As a result of that most of the best officers have been discouraged, demoralised and prevented from performing their duties.”

Further, he said, those persons who have been accused of wrongdoing need to be dragged before the courts and public servants needed to be paid better.

A visually-impaired member of the audience asked the candidates how soon members of the differently-abled community could see the provisions of the Disability Act being made reality to improve their lives.

Ramjattan, who was a parliamentarian at the time the Act was passed, said its implementation requires much funding since the Act also speaks of infrastructural changes.

“The Alliance For Change is saying that if we were to let’s say review the presidential pension package we’re gonna have money for the disabled and to that extent then we would find the money therein to do these necessary things to ensure that that Act be adhered to.”

In his response Granger said the skills of the differently-abled needed to be utilised from the time they go to school to adulthood.

“We need to provide a package for differently-abled persons allowing them to participate fully from the time they go to school, they must be able to go to a special school and move as quickly as possible from special schools into ordinary schools so that they can complete their education.

We need to look at facilities for their employment because nothing is wrong with their intelligence …” Granger stated.

Other questions posed to the candidates included ones on constitutional reform, women’s development, their leadership bonafides, tackling poverty, and their plans for the rice and sugar industries.      

PPP/C presidential candidate Donald Ramotar had declined an invitation to be part of  the forum while the circumstances surrounding the absence of TUF candidate Peter Persaud were unclear.