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Is GECOM above the Constitution?

first_imgDear Editor,The GECOM enigma continues to baffle, bewilder, mystify, confound and confuse everyone as Guyanese are taken for a seemingly futile journey from the High Court and Appeal Court of Guyana to the Caribbean Court of Justice – the highest Appellate Court of the region. Until now, since June 18 this year, the matters which were brought before the CCJ and decisively concluded are yet to be given legal effect and enforcement.We have seen that even though the CCJ has ruled that the NCM was validly passed since December 21, 2018, and that legal effect and enforcement must be given to Article 106 (6) and (7) which inter alia states that: Cabinet must resign, the coalition Government is in caretaker mode and General and Regional Elections must be held within three months or 90 days, we are no closer to any of these. The Government has refused to dissolve Cabinet, refused to act like a caretaker Government and has been using spurious legal meanderings to avoid the CCJ’s rulings initiated by the new ‘Hughes Mathematical Formula’.The recent ruling on August 14 by the High Court has skilfully avoided the petition brought by chartered accountant and Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram, who had sought to stop the House-to-House Registration process, arguing that it is not in keeping with the recent rulings of the CCJ and the Constitution of Guyana. He had also sought an order for GECOM to take all steps and actions necessary to hold elections by September 18, 2019, in compliance with Articles 106 (6) and (7). The Chief Justice ruled that the House-to-House Registration process to compile an Official List of Electors (OLE) is legal but no one can be removed from the NRR once they are not deceased or is not a citizen, which should be applauded. However, even though the CCJ did not and cannot set a date for elections, it did specify a timeline in accordance with the relevant Article. Furthermore, on June 18, when the CCJ confirmed the validity of the NCM, the election clock began ticking from that date since it is legally acceptable that a judgment takes legal effect from the date it was made, therefore, it will be logical to conclude that the short pause of the NCM was lifted on June 18.The Chief Justice should have ruled in relation to that new time period, it is not about setting a date for elections but to recognise the new timeline which had restarted from June 18 and will end on September 18 and that GECOM must consider that timeframe and set a date for elections. This means that GECOM will set the date, not the Court, the latter must stipulate that GECOM act with that three-month timeline. How else can the legal effect be given to Article 106 (7) which states that elections must be held within three months unless extended by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly? So essentially what the Court is saying is that although we recognised the validity of this Article we cannot enforce it but leave GECOM to execute it. So what is the purpose of the Court?When we look at this from GECOM’s perspective we find that the current House-to-House Registration will take approximately 290 days to conclude according to GECOM’s work programme. This means that it will end around April/May 2020. This was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, who had indicated that it is a programme shared by Chief Elections Officer, Mr Keith Lowenfield. To accept that it will conclude on October 20, 2019, is living in fool’s paradise, this is virtually impossible and I am sure the new Chairperson for GECOM will find this out presently.President Granger had in a letter dated March 13 this year asked for the GECOM’s work programme from the then Chairman Patterson to set date for ‘credible’ elections with the shortest possible time, therefore, I am sure that he is fully cognisant and acquiesced to this unconstitutional bid to extend elections way beyond the stipulated 90 days by an additional 200 days!It has been regurgitated and reiterated ad nauseam that GECOM is an independent body and is the creature of the Constitution.My final questions are: Is GECOM above the Constitution? Should GECOM be allowed to violate the Constitution which has created it? Should GECOM not now act decisively to give legal effect to Article 106 (7)? Should it not be that any act or law which violates the Constitution should be declared null and void and without legal effect?I am sure that the Chairperson of GECOM, Justice Claudette Singh, will not allow the violation and utter disregard which has been meted out thus far to our Constitution to continue!Yours sincerely,Haseef Yusuflast_img read more


Largest march held to end domestic violence against women in Guyana

first_imgAs concerns continue to rise over the upsurge of domestic violence cases in Guyana for the year thus far, the largest march in support of raising awareness on the issue was yesterday held.Hosted by the Guyana Stop Violence organisation under the theme “Break your silence, let’s stop the violence”, the march commenced before Parliament Buildings on Brickdam at 15:00hrs. Clothed in white and purple, the marchers then proceeded south into Avenue of the Republic, east into Durban Street, south into George Street, east into Norton Street, north into Creen Street, east into Durban Street, north into Louisa Row, then Cummings Street, east into Church Street, south into Albert Street, Into Sandeman Place, east into Brickdam, and concluded at the Square of the Revolution, where a rally was held.Live entertainment and moving tributes were all part of the event, as the organisation worked to end the crisis.According to the organisation’s president, Bonita Montague, “We need everyoneA section of the participants in Sunday’s marchout here because too many women are dying, too many children are suffering, and too many families are in pain.”Montague noted that the march is not against men, but against domestic violence, which affects everyone.“We need to activate the button of action. The impact this has on our youths, everyone needs to get involved. This is not action against the man, but all Guyanese, because domestic violence affects everyone. It’s important that we change the trend of violence in Guyana,” she declared.Also lending support and marching in solidarity with the hundreds of attendees, Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence called for an end to women being brutalised.“We will not allow our women to continue to be brutalised. We need to let our men know that we will not continue to let our women be mistreated,” the minister declared.She further called for parents to teach their children to show love and respect at a young age.Lawrence said, “We need parents to teach their children to show love, so we are asking all to come out and let’s march together, this has to stop”.Georgetown Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green, voiced similar sentiments in calling for both men and women to show love. She said, “Stop the violence! Love each other! We need both our men and women to show each other love…show support, we need to put an end to violence”.last_img read more


Security guard stabs reputed wife to death

first_img…walks into Police Station, confessesA rocky relationship spanning over half a decade came to an end on Sunday when a 34-year-old security guard fatally stabbed his reputed wife at their Freeman Street, East La Penitence home.Dead is 24-year-old Shenece Lawrence. According to the Police, the incident occurred at about 11:30h. Lawrence’s body was discovered in their Lot 272, Freeman Street home with a knife stuck in the neck.After committing the act, Lawrence’s reputed husband, Guyana Oil Company (GuyOil) security guard Jermaine Bristol, walked into the East La Penitence PoliceMurdered: Shenece LawrenceStation, located just a stone’s throw away from the couple’s home, and reported the crime. He was the one who led the Police to the body, and he has since been taken into custody to assist with investigations.Bristol’s aunt, Yvonne Morris, told Guyana Times she had last seen the couple at sometime between 10:00h and 10:30h, when they both visited her home at different intervals. She said that although her nephew was not a violent person, the duo had had a turbulent relationship, with constant intense arguments being featured.“She used to live with him, and one morning he came and said that she is not there anymore; that she gone. But they went to church (last) Sunday, and I don’t know what is the problem. This morning (Wednesday) she came and asked me for him, and I told her he (had been) by me and he went home back; and she gave me a number to call him, and when I called, the phone went to voicemail. He called back, and he asked where she is, and I said she gone,” the woman related.Undertakers removing Shenece Lawrence’s bodyMorris said she later learnt from her grandchildren that Lawrence did not leave the area, but had rather ventured to the Freeman Street home, and while she was there the incident occurred.“Next thing I know, about an hour after, my grandchildren called me and said, ‘Look Jermaine and a vanload of Police in the yard,’ and I try to find out what happened, and then I hear that Shenece dead. I don’t know what went wrong; I don’t know,” Morris informed.The woman said her nephew informed her that Lawrence had left the home sometime on Thursday last, but did not give a reason as to why she had so done. She said the couple had been together for over five years, but has no children together. They recently moved into the area after moving from Lawrence’s mother’s home in Broad Street, Georgetown. “After he done do what he do, heThe large crowd that gathered outside the murder scenewent to Police station and hand himself in. I don’t know what make he do that, or what get in to he; but he was not violent at all. They used to have their arguments and so, but I never know he hit she,” the woman said amidst sobs.At the scene, a large crowd of neighbours and passersby gathered with the common comment being disbelief that Bristol would do such a thing. When Lawrence’s mother, Nicola Lawrence, arrived on the scene, she immediately fell to the ground and had to be lifted away. A few minutes later, the undertakers arrived, and Lawrence’s brother, Ryan Lawrence, was asked to identify the body; but as he ventured into the yard and saw the condition of his sister, the man fled the scene immediately.Lawrence’s body was removed, and is now at the Lyken’s Funeral Parlour awaiting a post mortem examination, expected to be performed today.Over at the Lawrence home in Broad Street, Georgetown, this publication spoke to one of the dead woman’s brothers, and he explained that Bristol was “stupidy”, since the duo would fight ever so often. He described his sister as a “good girl”, and expressed disbelief at Bristol’s actions.Meanwhile, neighbours recounted one incident in which Bristol and Lawrence had been at a hotel in the city and he had begun to abuse her, resulting in her fleeingShenece Lawrence’s mother, Nicola Lawrence, being consoled by her brother, Ryan Lawrencethe location stark naked. That incident was reported to the Police, but it is unclear whether the matter had been investigated.Lawrence left Bristol’s home on Thursday and moved back to her mother’s, but according to her mother, her daughter only slept by her.“She came back on Thursday and would sleep and change and go to her work. She worked at the Hicksville Hotel,” she said.The distraught woman said she is aware that the duo had issues, and she said her daughter had informed her that she was planning to move back home; but she maintained that the couple had not been fully separated as yet.First Lady Sandra Granger had in March said that instances of domestic violence had increased some 14.2 per cent in the past six years, and had added that this societal scourge has become banal in Guyana. According to the First Lady, reported incidents of domestic violence by an intimate or previously intimate partner had risen from 74.8 per cent in 2011 to 89 per cent in 2017, with females accounting for an upward 80 per cent of the victims. (Lakhram Bhagirat)last_img read more


Legia Warsaw issue desperate plea to face Celtic in one-off Champions League decider

first_imgLegia Warsaw co-owner Dariusz Mioduski has issued a desperate plea to Celtic to play in a special one-off tie to decide who should progress in the Champions League.Celtic were convincingly beaten 6-1 by the Polish outfit in their two-legged qualifier, but were last week given a lifeline in Europe’s top competition.The Bhoys were bizarrely reinstated in the competition despite their hammering, after UEFA learned Legia brought an ineligible player off the bench in the final moments of their second-leg tie.Manager Henning Berg swiftly vowed his club would appeal, and Mioduski on Sunday issued an open letter stating his side’s case and asking the Hoops to “settle this matter honourably”.The co-owner, who seems well versed in Celtic’s heritage and history, said: “I therefore call on you to refer your best traditions of honour and honesty, that your famous club has been know for during the last 126 years.“Do not destroy the beautiful legacy, that you inherited from the past generations of ‘The Bhoys’.“I call on you to act according to the spirit of the game and rules of fair play – to issue a joint statement to the UEFA disciplinary bodies. Let’s meet in Warsaw or Glasgow and settle this matter honourably.”However, Mioduski’s plea failed to move the Parkhead club, who responded with a statement from a spokesman on their official website.The statement read: “We are disappointed by Legia Warsaw’s comments. This is entirely a matter for UEFA and its processes. Accordingly, we will reserve further comment for the appropriate time.”Celtic were awarded a 3-0 win, meaning they went through on away goals after a 4-4 draw and were drawn against Slovenian side Maribor in the Champions League play-off, with the Warsaw club dropping into the Europa League.Mioduski described UEFA’s punishment as “deeply unfair and contradictory to the fair play rules”, and referenced Celtic’s “rich heritage” and 1967 European Cup triumph in attempting to persuade them to agree to a rematch.“We found it deeply unfair and contradictory to the fair play rules to see our dreams shattered by the last four minutes of the already decided second leg match, when Bartosz Bereszynski was brought on the pitch,” Mioduski wrote.“Our player had served the full sentence and intentionally missed the first three matches in the Champions League qualifiers this season.”He continued: “Imagine Jock Stein and Billy McNeill deprived of the chance to achieve the biggest triumph in their career by an application form, filled improperly by a club employee acting in good faith.“Would any true legend of Celtic FC accept the qualification won despite the double defeat suffered on the pitch? I am strongly convinced that their legendary Celtic pride would not allow them to do that.“How could they then look in the eyes of their humiliated fans?“Willie Maley, the legendary manager of Celtic FC, once said that in your stadium ‘a man is judged by his football alone’. Only you can decide whether this noble credo will be replaced by an opportunistic use of legal loopholes.” Legia Warsaw players celebrate against Celtic, only for their 6-1 win to be scrubbed out by UEFA 1last_img read more



first_imgUrris GAA News:JIGS & REELS: The club are hosting a Jigs & Reels on Sunday night (October 25th) in the Ballyliffin Hotel. Our Dancers are practising away very hard in this final week. Should be a very enjoyable night, doors open at 7.30pm and commencing at 8pm sharp. Tickets are €10 and can be purchased from Danny Kelly, all the dancers and any committee members. MATCH “N” WIN: October 15th: No jackpot winner—-numbers drawn: 1, 3, 11 & 15. €15 winners:Maria Harkin, Altahalla.Shay Toland.Patricia Devlin, Altahalla.Martina Harkin, Urris.Josie Mc Donald, C/o Bingo.Jackpot next week €2,020. Thanks to all our Lotto sellers and to all who support the club in this weekly draw.MONSTER BINGO: CLG Iorras wish to Thank all who came and supported our Big Bingo on Sunday afternoon and to all who helped out in any way on the day.SENIOR & RESERVE FOOTBALL: Seniors & Reserves travelled to play Buncrana on Saturday night. Reserves lost by 2-10 to 2-04. The senior lost by 2-15 to 4-08, the latter were very unlucky not to get a point from this game. Next match is away to Downings on Sunday but please check our Facebook page for any changes regarding this fixture.CLUB PITCH: Our pitch in Straid is now closed due to much needed work being carried out. Thanks to all remaining teams and coaches for your co-operation. U16 GIRLS: Are in the final of their group section against Naomh Mhuire, date and venue to be confirmed.SCOR NA NOG: Scor Na Nog takes place in Muff on Friday 6th November. The club have Ceili dancers, solo singer and traditional group lined up so far. We would like to get a quiz team together as well, So if there would be U17’s in the club interested in forming a quiz team or anyone who can help to get a team organised please contact our Cultural Officer, Shaun Mc Daid on 0861948491.MASS FOR DECEASED MEMBERS: The annual mass for deceased members is on Friday November 13th at 7pm in the clubhouse.BINGO: Bingo every Thursday night in St. Mary’s Hall, Clonmany at 9pm.GAA NEWS: URRIS HOST JIGS AND REELS EVENT ON SUNDAY NIGHT was last modified: October 20th, 2015 by Mark ForkerShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:GAASportURRISlast_img read more



first_imgTHIRTY new jobs are on their way to Donegal after Randox secured a deal with a healthcare company in Mexico.The trade agreement between Randox Teoranta and Central de Diagnostica e Industria, is being signed at the Palacio Nacional, the headquarters of Mexico’s executive government, and will be witnessed by the Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and President Michael D Higgins.The jobs are being created at Randox in Dungloe. The new trade agreement between Randox and Central de Diagnostica e Industria will result in Randox pioneering laboratory products being delivered to clinics and hospitals across Mexico over the next two years.The Mexican company is creating 85 positions.Dr Peter FitzGerald, managing director of Randox Teoranta said the new trade agreement was a matter of “great pride” for the firm.“We are honoured to have both presidents witness this new trade agreement and of course we are honoured to be working with Mexico. “Of course, it is not just about economic growth and job creation, most important to us is the fact that our technology, researched and developed in Ireland, will contribute to earlier diagnosis, more accurate treatment and better outcomes for patients in Mexico, as well as reducing the burden on the country’s health service.” 30 NEW JOBS FOR DONEGAL AS RANDOX SIGN MEXICO DEAL was last modified: October 20th, 2013 by John2Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:dungloerandoxlast_img read more


Immigration debate parallels

first_imgWASHINGTON – The immigrants work for peanuts, drive down wages and push Americans out of good jobs. They swarm the hospitals, jails and welfare rolls. Their neighborhoods are crime-ridden. They don’t learn English. They won’t assimilate. The sentiments could have sprung from last month’s House debate on illegal immigration. But those arguments were made 128 years ago before a congressional committee investigating the heavy influx of Chinese immigrants. “Lots of historians are drawing parallels between how we handled the rapid increase of immigration in the 19th century and how we handle it now,” said Donna Gabaccia, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. “The context is different,” Gabaccia said, noting that today’s furor is over illegal, not legal immigration, and the post-9-11 national security concerns add a new dimension. But, she said, “the rhetoric itself shows an astonishing continuity.” Isolated Chinese cultural enclaves also alarmed the 1870s lawmakers. Sargent, in his 1877 summarizing report, notes unfavorably that Chinese immigrants “still retain their peculiar costume and follow their original national habits in food and mode of life; they have no social intercourse with white people,” concluding that they “are non-assimilative with whites.” Fears that immigrants will fail to assimilate into American culture remain a concern with members of Congress today. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., for example, often rails against what he calls a “cult of multiculturalism” that threatens American unity. In a 2003 floor speech, he noted that “previous generations of immigrants expected that their children would learn English,” adding that “only in the recent past have we seen a political movement that seeks to perpetuate a parallel culture that does not speak English and thus cannot participate fully in the mainstream of American life.” But the main worry of the 1877 investigating committee, much like today, revolved around wages. “My observation has been that the labor of the Chinese who are here now and coming here tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer,” James Bassett, an editor at the Los Angeles Herald, testified before the committee. Sargent said the willingness of Chinese laborers to work for 40 cents to $1 a day reduces wages “to what would be starvation prices for white men and women.” At the same time, much of the pro-Chinese testimony mirrors the rhetoric of today’s immigration advocates who say illegal aliens do jobs “that Americans won’t do.” The average Chinese immigrant, California lawyer F.A. Bee testified, “comes here as a laborer. He comes here for the purpose of bettering his condition. He comes here as a law-abiding citizen. Where is the white man who will go into that ditch and work? He is not here. You can not find him.” Gabaccia said she sees striking similarities between the rhetoric of 1877 and that of 2005. “Nobody today says `oh, it’s those Mexicans and they’re racially inferior.’ You don’t have that kind of explicit racialization.” But, she said, “The rhetoric about illegal immigration right now is extremely vicious. That’s where many historians feel a resonance to the 1870s and 1880s.” Lisa Friedman, (202) 662-8731 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake The 1877 hearing of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration, held at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, was one of the first major congressional panels to delve into the impacts of immigration. The report it produced, which described Chinese laborers as a “standing menace to Republican institutions upon the Pacific, and the existence there of Christian civilization,” paved the way for America’s first significant immigration restrictions. The 1,287 pages of that hearing’s minutes, tucked into the stacks of the National Archives, is riddled with blatant remarks reflecting the scientific racism of the period. California Republican Sen. Aaron Sargent, for example, remarks that “there is no Ayrian or European race which is not far superior to the Chinese as a class.” And California state Assemblyman Frank McCoppin, while allowing that Chinese workers “fill the menial positions of our country well,” contends they “are not as strong or as brave as the white laborer.” last_img


first_imgCommunity Election candidate, Peter Cutliffe has expressed his sorrow at the manner in which he claims long-serving Fianna Fáil Councillor, Victor Fisher has been treated by his party.Peter CutliffeMr Cutliffe says that as a fellow businessman in Letterkenny, he has known Cllr Fisher for over 40 years.“In that time he has been a loyal servant to both Letterkenny and the Fianna Fáil party. In his own words, Cllr Fisher “wasn’t even considered ” by his own party in the selection process for the upcoming Council elections. “I have had several dealings with Cllr Fisher over the years and above all else, Victor is a gentleman and deserves better,” said Mr. Cutliffe.And he added “I believe that townspeople will be further disillusioned with politics and at the manner in which Cllr Fisher was treated. In my opinion, he is justified at being very annoyed.“In my opinion, this sequence of events only compounds my belief that the party-system does not truly reflect the feelings of the ordinary voter on the ground.”In conclusion, Mr Cutliffe wished Cllr Fisher the best of luck in whichever directions he chooses to proceed.  PEOPLE WILL BE DISILLUSIONED WITH PARTY POLITICS AFTER FISHER AFFAIR – CUTLIFFE was last modified: March 22nd, 2014 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:Peter CutliffeVictor Fisherlast_img read more


Sensational sports stadiums

first_img20 May 2004South Africa’s world-class sports stadiums have hosted a number of massive sporting events.For cricket there was the World Cup in 2003; for rugby there was the World Cup in 1995; for soccer there was the African Cup of Nations in 1996; for athletics there was the World Cup in 1998.Some of the country’s stadiums rate among the best in the world. The Wanderers Cricket Stadium, for instance, seats just 28 000, but is known as the Bull Ring because of its electric atmosphere.No less an authority than Brian Lara, after a thrilling one-day international between the West Indies and South Africa in February 2004, reckoned it was one of the finest theatres in which he had ever played.Then there’s Newlands, regarded by many as the most picturesque Test cricket venue in the world. Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain stares down on the ground, and clouds rolling over the top of the mountain make for a stunning backdrop. The crowds at Newlands are also famously enthusiastic, and it has become a venue of choice for New Year’s Tests.Johannesburg’s Ellis Park is a rugby cauldron. Playing at altitude against the Springboks is surely one of the tougher challenges in world rugby. It makes for a marvellous picture when filled to capacity, as it was on 24 June 1995, when South Africa met New Zealand in the World Cup final. Lifted by a united crowd, the Boks upset the All Blacks 15-12.Durban’s Absa Stadium, formerly known as King’s Park, is home to one of the finest rugby experiences on the planet. With the stadium situated only a kilometre from the sea, the weather is mostly balmy. Many rugby fields surround the main stadium, and before and after games, families can be seen there braaiing, chatting, gathered together to talk about the game.There’s plenty of entertainment provided after the game on a big stage where bands perform and players are interviewed and the fans hang around for hours afterwards to soak up the atmosphere.South Africa’s premier soccer venue is the FNB Stadium, known as Soccer City. It seats a massive 94 700, and never has it made for a more thrilling sight than on 3 February 1996, when Bafana Bafana beat Tunisia in the final of the African Cup of Nations.Johannesburg has also hosted the world’s best athletes at the Johannesburg Stadium.And South Africa’s “natural” stadiums are something to behold. Take surfing, for example.Jeffreys Bay, home to the MSF Billabong Pro six-star rated surfing contest, has become a surfing Mecca. That’s because of Supertubes, one of the longest and most consistently good waves in the world. It’s form is perfect, with awesome barrels that allow surfers to pull off superb and astounding moves both inside and outside the wave. Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more


SKA on the African horizon

first_imgAlthough a prototype, the KAT-7 has attracted interest from scientists all over the world. (Image: SKA South Africa) With about 3 000 receptors linked together and a total collecting area of 1 000 square metres, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will have 50 times the sensitivity and 10 000 times the survey speed of the best current-day radio telescopes. With global investment supporting the project and astronomers and engineers around the world already working on its design, construction on the SKA is scheduled to start around 2016. The first astronomical observations are expected by 2019 and the telescope should be fully functional by 2024.South Africa, currently competing with the Australia / New Zealand collaboration to build and host the world’s most powerful radio telescope, is at an advanced stage of project development.“At first nobody took us seriously,” said SKA South Africa director Dr Bernie Fanaroff, “but this project has changed the way the scientific community views our country, which is important in improving international perceptions of science and engineering in South Africa.”The country has partnered with eight other African nations to strengthen its bid, and has received the full support of the African Union. Should it succeed, the telescope’s core will be located in a radio reserve in the Northern Cape province. This area is protected against future radio interference by the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act of 2007.Remote stations of about 24 antennae each will spread out as far as 3 000 km from the core throughout Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia.As the absence of radio interference will be one of the key considerations in the final host selection, the international SKA project development office commissioned a new series of ultra-sensitive radio frequency interference measurements, using two sets of equipment, at the two sites towards the end of 2010.An external advisory committee will review the data and make its recommendations.Additionally, building and operating costs will play an important role in the ultimate selection of the most suitable site. Construction costs are expected to be considerably lower in South Africa than in Australia.In November 2011 an international site selection group will make a final recommendation on the best site for the SKA, following which the SKA board will announce its decision in mid-2012.From the dark ages to extraterrestrial intelligence“There is a strong science case for building the SKA, but, because there is so much about the universe that we simply don’t know yet, the telescope will most likely be celebrated for discoveries that we can’t even imagine now,” said Fanaroff.By looking back in time approximately 13.7-billion years to the dark ages of the universe, the SKA will be able to provide detailed pictures of the cosmic web of neutral gas to unravel how the very first black holes and stars were formed. It will even be able to detect extremely weak extra-terrestrial signals and may pinpoint other planets capable of supporting life.But none of this will be possible if skills are absent, and the development of expertise is a key part of the project. The SKA’s precursor, the Karoo Array Telescope or MeerKAT, currently provides the ideal breeding ground for this purpose.“You can’t develop new expertise without a cutting edge project to work on,” said Fanaroff, “and MeerKAT attracts and excites young scientists and engineers because it is something entirely new and extremely ambitious.”The MeerKAT is South Africa’s first interferometer – a telescope consisting of many linked dishes that all contribute towards the production of high-resolution images – and is driving the development of new skills within the astronomical community in South Africa and on the continent.“The technologies developed for the MeerKAT and SKA will be commercialised in the next 10 or 20 years,” said Fanaroff, “which means that when that happens, our young people working on this project will be at the forefront, and will find themselves in high demand around the globe.”Through its human capacity development programme, SKA South Africa funds students across a wide range of study levels, starting from young artisans, technicians and undergraduates all the way up to advanced post-doctoral studies. To date nearly 300 students have benefited from the programme’s bursaries and scholarships, including many from other African countries.Most bursaries go to physics and engineering students and a special effort is made to attract women and black students to these fields through the undergraduate programme. Support for artisan training focuses on promising students studying at the Northern Cape Further Education and Training Urban College in Kimberley.Taking new technologies to unprecedented levelsThe SKA is expected to stimulate extraordinary advances in relevant technology.“Astronomy always pushes the boundaries, because astronomers need the latest and most sensitive technologies, and then they typically advance it even further,” said Fanaroff. “We expect that the SKA will collect more data in a week than what humankind has collected in its entire history.”He added that the amount of data that will flow through the SKA will be about 250 times more than the internet’s current total data traffic. Processing will require supercomputers working at exaflop speeds, about 1 000 times faster than today’s most advanced machines.To meet deadlines, production of the thousands of dishes will have to accelerate, while taking into account that these are highly sophisticated and sensitive scientific instruments.“We will have to use industrial methods to produce and put up several dishes per week – something that has never been done before,” said Fanaroff.From KAT-7 to MeerKAT to the SKAOnce completed, the 64-dish MeerKAT will be the southern hemisphere’s largest radio telescope and one of the world’s biggest and most powerful telescopes. The Australians are also building a precursor instrument, the Australian SKA Pathfinder or Askap.The first seven dishes – known as KAT-7 – of the local precursor instrument were completed by December 2010 and are now being commissioned under the guidance of Dr Debra Shepherd of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the US. The project will be handed over to scientists towards the end of 2011.“We built and tested the systems in Cape Town, and then moved them to the site,” said Fanaroff. “Everything worked immediately, which sent out a strong message that our local team is world class.”Although the KAT-7 is a prototype, it has garnered interest from scientists around the world, who are keen to switch it on as soon as possible.KAT-7 has already delivered images of the Centaurus A galaxy, 14-million light years away.A new look MeerKATFollowing an extensive review process, the design of the MeerKAT’s dishes has been finalised. It will consist of 64 Gregorian offset dishes, each with an effective diameter of 13.5 metres. This configuration provides heightened optical performance and sensitivity, excellent imaging quality, and good rejection of unwanted radio frequency interference from satellites and terrestrial transmitters.“The offset dish design not only produces better science, but is also much closer to what the SKA dishes are likely to look like,” said Fanaroff. “We want to make sure that our dishes are as close as possible to what the SKA is going to use, so that South Africa’s industry will be well placed to bid for major SKA contracts as soon as tender opportunities are announced.”The next step of the MeerKAT project is to build a single prototype dish of the new design on site in the Karoo. The existing production plant will be modified to meet the new specifications, so that MeerKAT dishes are still produced on site.This first dish will be built close to KAT-7 to allow thorough testing of the performance of the new design against the existing array. The work will also feed into the international SKA Dish Verification Programme (DVP), an important component of the international SKA pre-construction phase.Although MeerKAT will only be operational by around 2015, the world’s radio astronomers are already lining up to use it. In 2009 the SKA South Africa project received 21 proposals for large survey projects, involving more than 500 scientists, 60 of them from South Africa. These proposals were reviewed, refined, and about 43 000 hours of observing time have been allocated to 10 teams.last_img read more