Amid increasing incidents of domestic violence that has left several wounded or dead, President Donald Ramotar on New Years 2014 announced that social and religious organisations would be enlisted to fight the “scourge”.
“In 2014, I propose to conscript social and religious organizations in the fight against domestic violence.
I believe that these organizations should play a leading role in addressing this concern and I wish to incorporate then to reduce this terrible scourge,” said Ramotar in his radio and television New Year’s address.
Police Force records show that more than one dozen mostly women have been killed by their partners or ex partners for the year. That figure does not include scores more who are beaten by their spouses.
Help and Shelter also reported that there appears to be an increasing number of men who are victims of domestic violence. That non governmental organisation’s statistics show that 98 men in 2012 had reported being victims of domestic violence. They had been referred to Help and Shelter by the court system.
At the regional level, the Guyanese leader said he would push for the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to address climate change. He cited the recent death and destruction in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, and Dominica caused by heavy rainfall and flood. “In this regard, I intend in the coming year, to work with other CARICOM Heads to ensure regional action on climate change is given top priority,” he said.
Expressing disappointment with the combined opposition using its one-seat majority to block the construction of the Amaila Falls Hydropower plant and passage of amendments to the Anti Money Laundering Act, Ramotar urged opponents to work with government. “Politics of blackmail will undermine our democracy and can lead to further inequality. It will not be a good example for our people, particularly for the youths,” he said.
While the President credited his administration with ongoing successes in housing and creating the conditions for job creation through the Qualfon Call Centre and campus and the construction of new gold mines, Opposition Leader David Granger called 2014 ‘Year for Workers’
“Guyana’s ‘Year for Workers’ must be one in which our working people should be able to look forward to a good life. It should be one in which they could look forward to living in safety, to working for ‘living wages’ to cope with the cost of living and to enjoying adequate social protection in their old age.
Guyana’s ‘Year for Workers’ must be one in which workers can feel free to join trade unions of their choice; in which collective bargaining agreements between their employers and their unions will be respected and in which the state will enforce labour laws fairly but firmly to protect them from adversity and from delinquent employers,” he said.
Granger’s comments came against the background of an ongoing dispute between the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and government for increased wages and salaries and the restoration of collective bargaining in keeping with international and local laws.
Peeved at the five percent retroactive pay increase for 2013, the GPSU has threatened to take strike action. The union has since invoked the conciliation process while workers remain on alert for a strike call. “As President of the Guyana Public Service Union, I commend your militancy against such despotism; I commend the members of the Union, members of the political opposition and citizenry as we continue the struggle for respect, decency and fairness against this tyranny. We will continue to relentlessly pursue good-governance and with determination resolutely stand firm in defense of our rights,” said Patrick Yarde.
For its part, the Alliance For Change (AFC) vowed to ask Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh to show how monies allocated for the revision of wages and salaries for 2013 were spent, resulting in the government being able to pay only five percent. “We will continue the fight for a living wage, and that monies voted for increases in wages will be specifically quantified in the next budget. It is our hope that greater respect for collective bargaining and consultation with the Unions on the welfare of their members and without government making arbitrary awards will take place,” said the AFC.
That party also pledged to continue fighting for fair access to the State media – including live broadcasts of parliamentary debates- proper garbage disposal, proper garbage disposal, more disposable income and the holding of local government elections.