Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Commentary Parliament Speech 4 Casino Gambling:
(Aired 21 January 2007)

  ladies and gentlemen because I accept the concerns of the religious leaders among us about the moral dangers of casino gambling, and since it is not only fundamentally right, to heed the concerns of major sections of our citizens which should direct government's actions in a democracy, and not the nonsense pronounced in the Honourable Parliament by Cement Rohee that the religious doctrines have no place in state decisions, the PPP representatives in the national assembly can only tell us about jobs and investments in this Casino Gambling matter as they have been instructed to do by their executive, it really does not matter what they individually think since some are Catholics and some are Muslim they will, like the rubber stamps that they are, deny their obligations to their religion and do what they are told to do.

It is appropriate at this juncture to point out that this government's economic vision has not to date proven to be one which has benefited this nation, in fact their lack of vision is now legendary under the uninspired guidance of Bharrat Jagdeo and has contributed in no small way to our poverty situation in this nation, the result is that under pressure from the IMF they now have to resort to unconventional and dangerous methods of investment and draconian taxations such as Casino Gambling and a high 16% Value Added Tax with no proper transitional period of implementation which is causing so much hardship to this nation.

  To establish that the religious groups represent a substantial part of our population ladies and gentlemen, I direct your attention to the world fact book for Guyana and there under population it is clearly stated that this country's population is made up of the following; Christian 50%, Hindu 35%, Muslim 10% and those described as other at 5%.

Apparently circumstances and deception in this nation have conspired to place in the National Assembly of this nation only people from that 5% of our nation who are godless or are referred to religiously as other, and who are disregarding the opinions and beliefs of the 95% of this nation who are protesting the implementation of this bill, on religious grounds.

        I will not respond to the to the Home Affairs and Education Ministers' presentations in the house, since I will not dignify such patent heresy and nonsense with a response, I would however like, to place on the record my total dissatisfaction with these ridiculous presentations in the National Assembly, whilst the new Chairman of the Guyana Council of Churches and my own Catholic Bishop, the deputy chairman of the Guyana Council of Churches, were present in the National assembly, and I demand that they apologise. Actually I see in the newspapers [after I wrote this comment] that their President is apologising for them but that is not enough they, Rohee and Fox, must apologise to this nation and I will say this, these two people have no place in the legislative assembly of a nation where the overriding majority of the population are god fearing people.

      Because I accept the concerns of the religious among us about the dangers of casino gambling on moral grounds, and since it is not only fundamentally right, in a democracy, to listen to the concerns of the citizens which should direct government's actions and not be repressed, I condemn this Bill in the most vehement way possible.

     So now I come to the what Minister Ramsammy said to the honourable house when he alleged that Casino Gambling is 'not a sham for money laundering' in doing so he displays his ignorance, because if he researched this matter properly, he would have found the real evidence, which are the conclusions of one of the world's leading accounting firms Ernst & Young which has estimated that the amount of money laundered annually by criminal networks is US$1 trillion dollars, with casinos being one of the easiest and therefore preferred options of laundering money, and so we must take notice since the criminal underworld functions at a capacity at which it is allowed to, based on the authorities' abilities to enforce regulations Ladies and Gentlemen you live here, you decide how effective the Jagdeo Government has been in enforcing our regulations for anything, from the unimplemented procurement commission to the Environmental Protection Agency, to the Revenue Authority which is more inefficient today than it was when we had the old system of Comptroller of Customs and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, that old system used to collect 95 Guyana dollars for every one dollar spent at both the agencies, today after we merged these two agencies every dollar spent only collects 35 dollars i.e. 3 times less than before, but in the end when the consequences of the incompetence of the people who are running our affairs in this nation are examined, they are costing us a lot because if criminal endeavour operates at a level at which the authorities allow them to operate at, and in this country the line dividing the government itself and known criminals and drug lords is no longer clear, then you decide how much trouble we are in.

   Ramsammy referred to 100 countries now allowing legalised Casino Gambling with Trinidad and Tobago among them, because we are so close to Trinidad, Suriname and Venezuela we have some appreciation of what Casino Gambling is really doing to those nations, and in the end the bad always overshadows the good; ladies and gentlemen, no matter what the rhetoric, the excuses, or the promises, countries that introduce institutionalized gambling always pay a heavy price in the end. Trinidad does indeed permit casino-style gambling in members' clubs only and depending on how you count them, there are about forty such establishments there, many offering no more than a few pin-ball machines in backstreets without even telephone numbers. Ramsammy's fictional number of '10,000 direct jobs' provided by casinos in Trinidad and Tobago is just science fiction, just as his claim that we will have a state of the art medical facility here in Guyana for heart and other very invasive surgeries, after consulting with some of the most knowledgeable people in this country about this, I am convinced that minister Ramsammy is having a pipe dream, since with the level of qualifications and therefore competence of the nursing staff he currently has, it does not matter what he builds, it will not work!

   Madam speaker now I come to the crux of the matter and why I don't care what economic benefits Casino Gambling will allegedly bring to this nation; why I don't care that the Prime Minister has now told the parliament that this country has no eco tourist industry; why I don't care about the contemptuous remarks made in this honourable assembly by the prime Minister that  those who don't like this government's introduction of Casino Gambling can vote them out in 2011,  why I don't care that the government is cash strapped, since they are paying the price for their own ineptitude and corruption, what I do care about is that they are passing the fruits of their ineptitude and corruption on to the citizens of this nation in the form of higher taxes and with this Casino Bill, what I do care about is that in doing so they are about to break the constitution again, since chapter 2  article 9 says this "sovereignty belongs to the people, who exercise it through their representatives and the democratic organs established by and under this constitution" article 13 is just as clear and says this  "The principle objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of the citizens and their organisations in the management and decision making processes of the state with particular emphasis on those areas of decision making that affect their well-being" end quote, there has been no such consultation with the people or their organisations, in this case their churches, as is required by the constitution itself; what I do care about is that in this matter the PPP are behaving as if Bharat Jagdeo is the sovereign king in this nation rather than its elected president and as such he had a legal and statutory obligation to discuss this matter and come to a national consensus before he gave Buddy Shivraj the undertaking that he will be granted a Casino license if he builds this hotel for the world cup cricket, what I do care about is the fact that the first major beneficiary of this act by Jagdeo is to reward a man who stands accused of smuggling massive amounts of fuel in this country thereby establishing that he is a business man that skirts the line between legality and illegality; Madam Speaker there is also credible evidence that Buddys' financial partners in this endeavour may be very big players in this country's drug trafficking, one extremely reliable source has told me that one of Buddy's major partners in this endeavour is a known drug lord who may have invested as much as 750,000 to 1,000,000 Euro dollars in this hotel.     

   The question now has to be whether there is any place in Buddy's hotel, currently under construction, which has been set aside for Casino gambling? If there is, then this matter was resolved long ago and Jagdeo stepped way out of line, in giving permission on such a fundamental matter affecting our god fearing population without consultation, and we should give him as much trouble as we can until he comes back into line with behaviour consistent with being the elected leader in an inclusionary democracy.

  And finally ladies and gentlemen I do care that public funds have been given to this man who is skirting the line of legality in this country to ensure that this hotel is completed on time!

   Ladies and gentlemen I do not know where this concept of Casino Gambling as a development tool for Guyana comes from, it is not contained in the National Development Strategy, neither is contained in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper which this nation has submitted to the International Financial Institutions and which is supposed to act as the blueprint for our removing poverty from the poor citizens in this nation the current VAT fiasco is evidence that the PRSP is a failure, we are not getting less poor we are getting poorer and we being forced to find newer and more onerous ways of taxing our citizens, neither I may add does implementation of Casino Gambling appear in the manifesto of the PPP in the just concluded general elections, I consider this to be a completely unacceptable, reprehensible and deceptive act since if the PPP had made such a disclosure before the elections, many votes including the Muslim and Amerindian vote would probably not have gone to them, and even the devout Hindus would probably also have been reluctant to vote for a gambling government, so if Buddy's hotel does contain a place identified in its blueprints for Casino Gambling, then this President Jagdeo gave permission to allow Casino Gambling in this country almost two years ago, long before the election, without consulting anyone and it is that which I find most offensive about this entire stinking matter.

   Finally I want to quote from a letter written by my friend Christopher Ram in the Stabroek News and published on 18th January 2006,... now ladies and gentlemen Christopher Ram is probably the most knowledgeable man I know on these accounting matters and more importantly he is a man who will tell us fearlessly and intelligently what the facts in any particular matter really are; ladies and gentlemen any idiot can go to the internet and find articles extolling the virtues of Casino Gambling, but if one looks deeper as Ram has done, one sees a very different picture, now remember that for nearly a decade Ram's business page column in the Stabroek news has stood out as the defining word on business matters in this nation, so his competence in this area cannot be questioned, he says this and I quote him "It is hard to believe that, in the words of Dr. Ramsammy, the Government has 'studied the experiences of other countries, some in our own region of the Caribbean.' If it had, then he would be aware that in the Budget Speech reported in the Trinidad Express of October 5, 2006, Prime Minister Manning vowed to eliminate casino-type establishments in his country.

   The 'industry' in Suriname is under the strong influence of the Ukrainian Mafia while in Venezuela, the owner of the Casino de Venezia is on record as telling the supreme court there, that the hotel was frequented by a group of Italians associated with the Italian Camorra, known for its Mafia connections. In South Korea several public officials including a minister of the Government have been guilty of accepting bribes in connection with the granting of licences to sell gambling machines while in the Philippines a close ally of President Arroya owns the Metrowall Mall in which an illegal casino was recently opened and which is associated with the assassination of a previous owner. And Cyprus admits to contemplating casino gambling because 'it is the lesser of two evils'. that the state that hosts the gambling capital of the world Las Vegas, has the second highest rate of homelessness in the US, twice the national average and that even developed countries like the USA and the UK can barely regulate their gambling industry. people might not even be aware that while the government bowed to international pressure and passed legislation in 2000 to prevent money laundering, the legislation was not brought into effect even as the illegal narco-trade, fuel smuggling, tax evasion and money laundering took root and grew in the country and along with other elements of the underground economy now account for some 40% of the economy. Simultaneously, the Government has ignored warnings that the non-bank cambios do much, much more than change money for the person who may not have access to the commercial banks or who care simply about a better rate.