March 27, 2017

Archives for March 10, 2017

Cuban businessman freed of TIP charges

Eladio Pereza

Eladio Pereza

A Cuban businessman was on Tuesday morning freed of Trafficking In Persons (TIP) charges, when Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan said there was insufficient evidence to convict him.

Eladio Pereza, owner of Bollywood Club on the East Bank of Demerara, allegedly trafficked a Cuban female for sexual exploitation between March 1, 2016 and January 20, 2017 at the said nightclub.

Magistrate McLennan in her decision on Tuesday stated that the prosecution failed to prove the necessary elements of trafficking in order to convict Pereza of the offence.

She added that the defendant’s case was coherent and believed the story to be well corroborated by the Virtual Complainant’s statements throughout the trial.

Thereby having considered all of the evidence, the Magistrate dismissed the charge.

The businessman first appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on January 23, 2017, and was remanded to prison by the Chief Magistrate after he pleaded not guilty to the charge, which alleged that he recruited, transported and harboured a fellow Cuban female for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Defence Attorney Mark Conway related that Pereza, 34, is resident of Guyana for two years and is married to a Guyanese woman.

Throughout the trial, the 34-year-old man maintained his innocence.

Tuesday, however, does not mark Pereza’s ultimate court appearance, as he is set to again face the court on March 15, when he will be charged with intention to commit a felony.

Meanwhile, the Social Protection Ministry’s Counter Trafficking in Persons Unit in a statement on Tuesday acknowledged the decision by the court in the case against Pereza.

According to the Ministry, it will continue to fight to bring perpetrators of this most egregious and odious act to justice and pledges it’s support, protection and strong defence for victims involved in TIP.

In continuing the fight against Trafficking In Persons, an enforcement activity in Issano, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) conducted over the weekend saw two alleged victims (minors) being rescued. They are currently in the protective care of the Unit assisting with investigations and are currently receiving psychosocial assistance and counseling.

 

No decision made for Suriname’s help with oil refinery – Trotman

Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman

Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman

One day after Rudolf Elias, Suriname’s State oil company’s Managing Director announced that that country’s oil refinery is not built to handle the type of oil extracted from Guyana, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman has said that no decision has been taken with respect to where Guyana’s oil would be refined.

Trotman’s statement comes against the backdrop of an interview Elias had with Ware Tijd, an online newspaper in Suriname. Elias said, “the refinery is not built tohandle the type of oil that is extracted in Guyana. Their oil is a much lighter quality. Our refinery was built for the heavy oil that we have landed here in Suriname”.

He noted that even if Suriname does its own discoveries in its deep sea area, the type of oil that will be of the same light quality as in Guyana. “It will also not be processed in our refinery,” Elias adds.

Suriname’s oil company Managing Director, Rudolf Elias

Suriname’s oil company Managing Director, Rudolf Elias

As such, the Natural Resources Ministry in a statement on Tuesday said that during an engagement on March 2, Minister Trotman had pointed out that Government Ministers were informed on February 28 that Suriname had indicated a willingness to do refining for Guyana since their refinery is operating below full capacity.

The statement added that no decision has been made in terms of where Guyana’s oil would be refined.

According to the statement, Trotman had stated that Cabinet had approved a consultancy whose report will guide the Government on the way forward on the matter of an oil refinery for the country.

It further reminded that the Minister revealed that there had also been some recent overtures from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for the refining of Guyana’s oil, and said he expects that a formal proposal to be made from Trinidad and Tobago in this regard.

Trotman made the point that the current below optimum operating positions of Suriname and Trinidad bring into stark focus the need for Guyana to be careful in considering whether or not to have a refinery.

Further, the release pointed to a question which was asked about whether Trinidad or Suriname would have had to do any retrofitting to be able to refine the grade of oil Guyana will be producing.

“By virtue of this question being asked, and answer given, it is clear that there are still unknowns about the technical aspects of the potential refining arrangement between Guyana and its neighbours.”

Cabinet’s role should be removed completely from procurement process

Dear Editor,

Once more, the situation with the setting up of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) and its functioning has come to the fore and is prominent in the news. Since the author had quite a bit to do with this, it is therefore important to once more set the record straight.

When the PPP/C government placed the PPC Bill before the National Assembly, the ‘no objection’ role of Cabinet was part of that Bill. The then opposition railed against this, and suggested strongly that Cabinet’s role be removed. It was on the floor that this was done. The then Attorney General, Doodnauth Singh, Khemraj Ramjattan and lawyers from the Opposition, including Winston Murray, had a sidebar and removed the role of Cabinet.

Therefore, the intention of the framers should not be in doubt.

I also recall that when the PPP/C moved in the National Assembly to establish that body, it was hindered by the then opposition, which tried to manipulate the process to get majority representation on the Board. At one stage, they even demanded to have the chairmanship of the PPC.

At the level of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), where these manoeuvres were taking place, the PPP/C was having none of that.

The PNC/R stuck to its position, refusing to compromise; and that prevented the setting up of the PPC.

After the 2011 elections, the issue was raised again. This time, the joint opposition had a one-seat majority in the National Assembly. They were demanding that the PPC be established, and this time their bargaining position had improved. They appeared not to want any recommendation from the PPP/C.

They used their one-seat majority in the Assembly to frustrate all of the then government’s developmental projects: They railed against the Marriott Hotel; they frustrated the beginning of the Amaila Falls Hydro Project; they voted in the National Assembly to cut the budget of the Ministry of Works, stymieing the establishment of new airstrips in the interior; and they even voted against the establishment of a Specialty Hospital, which was aimed at advancing our health services by leaps and bounds.

The APNU/AFC was not only being anti-developmental, but also deliberately putting our country in harm’s way; they seemed to have wanted to make the economy grind to a halt. Their refusal to pass the Anti-Money Laundering Bill was aimed at damaging the financial sector and the economy as a whole. Further, the APNU/AFC members of the National Assembly voted against the Amendments to the Environmental Tax Act, which would have allowed a level playing field for local and regional companies. This was fulfilling Guyana’s commitment to CARICOM. That would have settled the case brought by the Rudisa Company, which claimed that the tax was discriminatory.

This anti-nationalist act by the APNU/AFC cost our country more than one billion dollars.

Even in such hostile circumstances, the PPP/C Administration tried to make compromises in relation to enacting the PPC. It was proposed that we establish the PPC but, however, allow cabinet to retain its ‘no objection.’ This was proposed because of the hostile attitude of the APNU/AFC towards the government’s projects.

The then opposition parties refused, and adamantly demanded that Cabinet’s role be completely removed.

Therefore, all the talk about things not being clear is just a mere roost for the APNU regime to renege on that position now.

There should be no doubt of the intent.

Cabinet’s role should be removed completely.

 

Sincerely,

Donald Ramotar

 

Kumar’s fabrications have been exposed

Dear Editor,

The retirement of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the public announcement in this regard has occasioned another flurry about the Commission in the media. Joining that flurry was one Mr Neil Kumar, who made three assertions among others.

He asserted that: (1) “the election results were by law supposed to be verified by the Information Technology tabulation and the corresponding manual tabulation. However, none of this was done”. (2) “Guyanese must now demand that GECOM tell us how many fake SOPs were discovered. This information must come forward so that we could know the specific areas and the Presiding Officers that were involved in the rigging of the 2015 elections”; and (3) “The former Chairman and the Chief Elections Officer of the Guyana Election Commission should be held responsible for their actions in allowing fake SOPs to infiltrate the system”.

The first observation I wish to make is that whoever attempted to corrupt the system with fake Statements of Poll did so on the heels of Mr Boodhoo and the Commission’s misappropriation of a Linden Constituency seat in 2006. An Alliance For Change (AFC) seat was appropriated to the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), and Mr Boodhoo attempted to pass off a fictitious result in 2011 (he sought to allocate the one-seat majority to the PPP/C rather than to the Opposition, to which it rightfully belonged). The fake Statements of Poll in 2015 continued the corrupt trend of 2006 and 2011.

Of interest is that the now vocal Kumar and his comrades-in-arms were deafening in their silence in 2006 and 2011. That attitude defies any claim that their interest is in free and fair elections. It clearly shows that their singular concern is being declared the winner at all cost. That contention is further fortified by Kumar’s three concerns. The fact of the matter is that GECOM’s IT Division, which was fully operational in 2006 and 2011 when electoral fraud was perpetrated and attempted on the respective occasions, was shut down in 2015 when it was discovered that fake statements had found their way into the system and into the IT unit for the tabulation of the results. What nails Kumar’s fabrication is that in addition to the manual calculations, the CEO resorted to other computers for the purpose of computing the results, as required by law; and in so doing, met the legal requirement which Kumar falsely or maliciously claims was not met.

By requesting information on which Statements of Poll were faked as the basis for identifying the “specific areas and the Presiding Officers that were involved in the rigging of the 2015 elections”, it is logical to conclude that Kumar knows at which stage in the process the fakes had entered the system, although his party would have collected statements at every polling station and did not challenge any of the statements used for tabulating the results at the district counting centres; yet he concludes that they were from specific polling stations.

If the statements entered the system at the points that Kumar contended that they did, how could he accuse Surujbally and Lowenfield of actions that allowed the infiltration; which by his contention took place at polling places where neither Surujbally nor Lowenfield was present, and where neither was in direct control.

Let it be known that the discovery of fakes was done at the Central Command Centre after the statements would have been included in the tabulation of the IT unit.

Kumar has successfully spun his own web, which in turn has entrapped him and exposed his fabrications which he purports to be the truth. He, however, seems to be a stranger to the truth.

Yours truly,

Vincent Alexander

GECOM

Commissioner

 

Hate speeches should have no place in Guyana

Dear Editor,

Marking the centenary of the end of the Indian indentureship programme has become a most interesting exercise and more so for the Indian Guyanese community.

Myself, Ravi Dev and Swami Aksharananda were the objects of the usual spewing of hate – originating from Freddie Kissoon’s pathology of self-hatred – in a column published on March 7, 2017.

Whether Kissoon should be given a column to direct personal attacks in the name of responsible journalism is a consideration for his publishers, the Guyana Press Association, and for the Government, which is currently engaged in a nationwide programme to build social cohesion.

At the event held at the National Cultural Centre (NCC) which attracted so much media attention the Social Cohesion Minister was present and heard our remarks, as did other Ministers of Government and heads of diplomatic missions in Guyana.

That none of these intelligent and reasoned personages raised any alarm about any of our speeches inciting uprisings or societal explosions in Guyana could be a good indicator that it was an occasion that offered few surprises, if any.

Neither Dev nor I said anything new. In fact, we have been addressing these same concerns for years – along with leaders like Swami Aksharananda – about Indian Guyanese marginalisation. Newer ones like the closure of sugar estates at an event that speaks to Indian indentureship is hardly a surprise either.

What arose from Kissoon’s diatribe, however, was a decided fear among some of our community. He succeeded in getting Indian Guyanese to pull back into their corners and to fall silent. It always comes as a surprise that there are people who view Kissoon as an intellectual and moral giant even though his columns amount to little beyond glib name-dropping and personal attacks on anyone he deems unacceptable.

His success in intimidating some in our community into silence, however, needs investigation on this historic centenary.

Are we still ‘bound coolies’ allowing others to define us or are we free to think, analyse and speak for ourselves and about ourselves?

In our divided country, there are agents with their various agendas who want us to retain our bound yard status and to live in fear and silence. These include self-loathers like Kissoon and others who feel that subsuming themselves to a national identity of oneness is the only future on offer.

The Government’s and Opposition’s continuous message of respect for diversity is set aside as political rhetoric by these Indian Guyanese who might well be correct about this assumption. They feel comfortable with their chosen status which opens doors for them in every area of national life.

Our insistence on national recognition and respect for our Indian heritage and experience, therefore, makes them vastly uncomfortable. The other section of the bound yard includes Indian Guyanese who do understand and agree with our positions fully but remain closeted for fear of reprisal and intimidation by Kissoon and those of his ilk.

So much for our legacy of courage and resistance inherited from the many Indian heroes who fell right here on the sugar plantations in the struggle for justice.

The question for all Guyana is: when will Indian Guyanese be able to live as Indian Guyanese and without fear to think, speak and voice an opinion from their perspective without being condemned as racists?

This branding never occurs when Africans, Amerindians or any other group speaks on behalf of their communities. This is not a cry of victimhood but an observation about the obvious racism directed at the Indian Guyanese population which is designed to keep us voiceless.

I wish to say to those Indian Guyanese who are fearful of embracing their ethnic identity: we left the bound yard one hundred years ago.

We are free to give voice in music, dance, literature, etc, and free to express ourselves. The next step would be the inclusion of these and other Indian Guyanese expressions on the national stage beyond the tokenism that now exist.

President David Granger in his address at Leonora last Sunday to mark the abolition centenary not only expressed his appreciation for the Indian contribution to Guyana’s development but assured us that we are very much part of a united Guyana.

This even as the State-owned “Guyana Chronicle” participates in the assault on myself, Dev, and People’s Progressive Party MP Adrian Anamayah who also spoke at the NCC on behalf of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.

While this assault directly contradicts the President’s own message of inclusion and respect for diversity, I want to believe that the President is sincere about his message to our community.

This should mean that all hate speeches and bigotry directed at any individual or group should be condemned and should have no place in Guyana.

Sincerely,

Ryhaan Shah

“Artificially created emergency”

Former Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy

Former Health Minister,
Dr Leslie Ramsammy

Former Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, has slammed the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation’s (GPHC) attempts to sole source drugs to the tune of G$605.9 million from private supplier ANSA McAL Trading Limited, due to an “emergency”.

According to Ramsammy, the fact is that the Georgetown Public Hospital has actually been delaying, then publishing and finally cancelling tenders for the supply of crucial drugs for the past few months. He said that the emergency Georgetown Public Hospital is citing is therefore an artificially created one, in order to sole source.

“The emergency that they claimed is wholly an inside engineered creation. Since October (2016), GPHC has, in fact, delayed and then cancelled four tenders which included all these medicines and medical supplies,” Ramsammy said in a statement to the press on Wednesday.

“GPHC had advertised for tender to supply medical supplies on October 2, 2016. This was followed by an advertisement for medicines on November 6, 2016. Both of these were delayed and then cancelled.”

GPHC CEO, Allan Johnson

GPHC CEO, Allan Johnson

He went on to recount that on February 2, 2017, two advertisements for medical supplies and medicines were placed. According to Ramsammy, these were also delayed and then cancelled. He observed that all of the items in the sole-sourced procurement from ANSA McAL were included in those advertised tenders.

Ramsammy also pointed out that this all happened at a time when the Georgetown Public Hospital and other parts of the country were experiencing a medicine and medical supply shortage.

“It is clear that the emergency that GPHC now claims and that the Minister has approved was an engineered one.”

Inflated prices

Ramsammy noted that ANSA McAL’s prices are “way beyond” the prices usually offered by suppliers to Georgetown Public Hospital or the drugs sold at private pharmacies.

“As an example, Aciclovir which is used to treat certain viral infections, including herpes simplex, 250mg, 2ml injection is being procured from ANSA McAL at a price of G$6880. Usually, offered bid price is G$730. At private pharmacies, patients can buy this medicine for about G$1000.”

He noted that the Georgetown Public Hospital with the approval of the Public Health Minister and Cabinet is allowing this medicine to be procured for almost 10 times the price.

Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence

Public Health Minister,
Volda Lawrence

The former Health Minister also pointed to other examples of the inflated prices. Clotrimoxazole cream 2g is being procured at a price of G$1750. According to Ramsammy, however, the usual bid price is approximately G$95. In addition, he said, one can purchase this medicine privately at approximately G$150.

“Anti-haemorrhoidal ointment 30g which is usually available at about G$200 is being purchased by GPHC from ANSA McAL at a price of G$2150.”

According to Ramsammy, an analysis will reveal that almost all the prices are inflated. He said that international reference prices for the items in the list from ANSA McAL showed that the same list at the International Reference Price would be about G$200 million.

The list which Georgetown Public Hospital attached to its request to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) contained a total of 118 products. These products amounted to a whopping G$605.9 million.

In the correspondence dated February 28, 2017, and addressed to NPTAB Chairman Berkley Wickham, Georgetown Public Hospital’s acting Chief Executive Officer Allan Johnson wrote that Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence had approved procurement of “emergency” medicines and medical supplies.

Johnson then requested approval from Wickham to sole-source the items from ANSA McAL, claiming that “the pharmaceuticals supplied by this company was at the time of request available only from this supplier.”

It was only in January 2017 that Minister Lawrence was placed to head the Public Health Ministry by President David Granger in a Cabinet reshuffle. The former Social Protection Minster replaced Dr George Norton, who had been embroiled in the drug bond fiasco. GPHC also got a new Board of Directors last month.

Sources at the hospital have previously revealed to this publication that despite experiencing pressing and critical shortages of drugs and medicines, the Ministry and hospital were often pressured to cancel bids and re-tender them so as to facilitate favoured companies.

In other instances, the closing dates for tenders are extended to accommodate the preferred bidder(s).

 

Economist blames ‘incompetent decision-makers’ for downfall of sugar industry

The recent announcement by Government that more sugar estates will be closed has been described as a move which lacks transparency by economist Sasenarine Singh, who believes that the downfall of the sugar industry is as a result of the incompetence of decision-makers.

Last week, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon admitted that more estates would be shut down as Government moved to finalise its options with regard to the future of the sugar industry. “Well, there are proposals with respect to diversification; and in the diversification plan, there is a proposal to that effect,” the State Minister told reporters at the post-Cabinet press briefing.

However, Singh pointed out that the premise upon which such a decision was taken was “totally non-transparent” and lacked “a comprehensive understanding of the social impact on rural Guyana”.

The economist explained that if the intention was to reduce the drag on the fiscal performance of the economy, then the first thing any skilful policymaker would have done was conduct a full-blown Socioeconomic Impact Assessment (SIA) on different options available to Government.

“No one has priced in the loss of the sugar earnings on the national reserves. No one has priced in the social cost and drain on the social security system because of a trimmed [Guyana Sugar Corporation] GuySuCo operations. The focus all along should have been on cutting out the fat from the industry – the non-value added cost, not kill the goose all together to get rid of the fat,” he stated.

Singh added that if this move reflected the reality in the minds of the decision-makers in the Cabinet of Guyana, then Tuesday ,February 28, 2017, would be “a date which will live in infamy” in the Cooperative Republic, he said, paraphrasing Roosevelt.

Moreover, the economist believes that the treatment of the Skeldon Estate reveals the deficiency of proper management capabilities at the helm of GuySuCo.

He noted that the reason given for the recent abandonment of the first crop at Skeldon – that the co-generation plant was unsafe to operate was nothing but a lame excuse. He pointed out that the situation exposed a deep deficiency in the project planning and engineering skills in GuySuCo, laying the blame at the feet of co-Chief Executive Officer Errol Hanoman, whom Singh said should be fired forthwith for “gross negligence and incompetence”.

“Did the senior team at GuySuCo in 2016 not developed a project plan for Skeldon for the first crop? Did they not identify and inspect their assets at Skeldon (their pool of available technicians, their equipment, the field are scheduled for reaping during the first crop of 2017 and most importantly the factory)? From that assessment, any skilled executive will then clearly know what they can do and what they cannot do,” the economist posited.

Losses

He went on to question who would take responsibility for the losses in the field since some 4000 acres of mature cane was now left to dry in the field. This, he noted, is a permanent loss of some G$2 billion.

“So, you see these decisions cannot be made lightly, because they result in billions of dollars in opportunity losses, which then translate into socio-economic deprivation in the local area – the Upper Corentyne. So when the local businesses would have expected a bump in their financial transaction in the first half of the year, they must settle for a season of “beri-beri”.  Who is going to feed, clothe and pay the mortgage for the sugar families of the upper Corentyne now?” he argued.

Nevertheless, when it comes to saving the Skeldon Estate, Singh is of the opinion that “boat done gone a falls”. He explained that back in May 2015, he was convinced without a shadow of doubt that the situation was recoverable, but this was not so anymore because of the high level of executive incompetence and bungled decision-making at the highest levels within GuySuCo for years now – not only under Hanoman but Raj Singh as well, who was ‘doubly worst’.

Moreover, the economist outlined that he was advised that the decision was made to sell the entire operations at Skeldon and that the son-in-law of a senior Government official was eligible for a finder’s fee of US$1 million if he could structure a deal for the Skeldon Estate with the co-generation plant.

“I was also reliably advised that as a precondition, investors want the balance sheet assigned to the Skeldon Estate to be stripped of the US$200 million debt that funded the factory. But anyone involved in any business acquisition will know that the valuation of a business is three-fold – the future cash flows, the expected rate of returns and the net asset value of the balance sheet. Everyone is focused on the fact that the factory is a mess, but no one is focusing on the intangible losses,” he posited.

According to Singh, if the debt for the factory is extricated from the deal, then the people of Guyana will get pennies on the dollar when this deal is done, with limited access to the future cash flows, most of which will be shipped out of the country for the investor, and the equity built up will all be owned by the investor.

To this end, the economist noted that it was imperative that deal or no deal, Skeldon should be formed into its own joint stock company and listed on the Guyana stock exchange. This way, he added, Government would be able to sell 75 per cent of the shares to private shareholders, not just the international investors, but to local companies such as Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) or anyone else who can afford to buy the shares.

The Pradoville II politics

The Government has spent almost the entire first two years of its term to bring charges of one sort or another against the members of past PPP administrations and their associates. Towards this end they ordered a score of “forensic audits” into the operations of several agencies so as to identify specific transgressions for the said charges to be filed. They even assigned a Minister to coordinate this task. However, in several instances where there were even more pronounced calls for such audits – such as at City Hall or GECOM in the wake of well publicised revelations of financial improprieties, there were no audits ordered. And of course, no prosecutions.

But as the audits were completed and six handed over to the police for further investigations and possible criminal prosecutions, it became clear the government was honing in on transactions in what has been dubbed the “Pradoville II” housing development. The investigation into this project, which was conducted by the accounting firm of Ram & McRae, was purportedly part of a larger probe of the financial operations of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA).

And it also became clear that even though lots were allocated to former president Bharat Jagdeo, six Cabinet members and others such as Compton Bourne, former Head of the Caribbean Development Bank and UG Chancellor, the inquiry was honing in on Jagdeo, even though he is constitutionally immune from prosecutions for actions taken while he filled the office of the President of Guyana.

The gist of the allegations by the audit was that the allocation of the lots was not done in a transparent manner, the values of the lots were “grossly: undervalued, and that the procedures followed by the Housing Minister in making the allocations varied from the norm. But what made the inquiry into the Pradoville II scheme suspicious was its handing over to the Police “Special Organised Crime Unit” (SOCU). It would appear the police was assuming that the Pradoville II scheme was an undertaking of organised crime.

Over a year ago, there were widespread concerns about SOCU exceeding its mandate which was to investigate crimes emanating from the AML/CFT legislation, when it was involved in a high speed chase in which two persons perished. Reacting to these concerns, the Minister of Public Security introduced an amendment to the GPF’s Standing Order No. 62, which concretised the expansion of SOCU’s mandate.

The criminal activities outside of terrorism and money laundering which were outlined in the amendment were: participation in an organised criminal group and racketeering; trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling; sexual exploitation, including the sexual exploitation of children; illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances; illicit arms and ammunition trafficking; corruption and bribery; fraud; counterfeiting and piracy of products; environmental crimes; murder; grievous bodily harm; kidnapping, illegal restraint and hostage taking; robbery or theft; smuggling; extortion; forgery; piracy; insider trading and market manipulation; tax evasion; and gold smuggling.

But there was no indication that it was authorised to investigate the “misfeasance” which the forensic audit claimed had been committed by the allotees of Pradoville II. And yet SOCU was given the job even though it was aided by a supposed British “expert” who was brought in. The suspicion that SOCU was a special unit to intimidate the PPP in general and Jagdeo in particular was brought out when SOCU claimed it was gathering evidence to lay charges. Experts asked at that point why were the Cabinet members and other individuals not being questioned. Today we have the answer: in very dramatic fashion they were arrested in a manner designed to make it a public spectacle and to humiliate them.

Another significant revelation was made when Asst Commissioner David Ramnarine, who is supposed to be overseeing SOCU, admitted he did not know the arrests were being made, even though last week Minister of Public Security revealed that arrests were imminent.

Why is SOCU still exceeding its mandate under political direction?

Guyanese pharma companies snubbed

…as GPHC creates “emergency” to sole source G$605M drugs from overseas firm

Country Head of ANSA McAL in Guyana, Beverly Harper

Country Head of ANSA McAL in Guyana, Beverly Harper

Another major corruption scandal appears to be in the making as the management of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) moves to sideline local companies for the procurement of emergency pharmaceuticals worth in excess of G$605 million from a Trinidadian firm, ANSA McAL.

Georgetown Public Hospital had delayed and cancelled four out of its five public tenders within the last four months, creating a situation where there is a massive shortage of pharmaceuticals, which was initially denied by the authorities, and which would have caused deaths and aggravated illnesses in patients lacking medication. One of Guyana’s leading local pharmaceutical manufacturers, the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (NEW GPC INC), is questioning the Georgetown Hospital’s decision to ignore local companies, which could have supplied the same quantity and quality of drugs at better prices.

Georgetown Hospital has delayed and cancelled four out of its five public tenders within the last four months, creating a situation where there is a massive shortage of pharmaceuticals.

Subsequently, the Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Allan Johnson, on February 28, wrote a letter to the Chairman of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham, requesting approval for the procurement of these “emergency drugs” in light of the shortage, from ANSA McAL to the tune of G$605,962,200.

This request to bypass the procurement process to sole source drugs from a foreign firm speaks loudly of some public official’s intent to sideline local companies which could have supplied the same pharmaceuticals at cheaper prices.

It raises the issue of motive and possible corruption, which is reminiscent of the earlier decision to rent a non-existent pharma warehouse.

NEW GPC noted that the transaction between Georgetown Public Hospital and AnsaMcAl, should it see fruition, would be a breach in the public procurement rules.

Cheaper prices

New NEW GPC further pointed out that it could have supplied many of the items instantaneously since there is usually inventory on hand. In the worst case scenario, NEW GPC said the delay would be less than a few days to get the products manufactured right here in Guyana.

“NEW GPC has surveyed some of the items it manufactures locally and some imported against ANSA McAL and the company’s prices are significantly cheaper. NEW GPC’s prices could be independently confirmed by reviewing recent bid submissions to the Tender Board in 2016 and 2017,” the firm stated.

Additionally, NEW GPC said it could have supplied even the items to be imported quicker by utilising its established and reliable supply chain; for instance, a Clindamycin injection, ANSA McAL’s price is 12 times NEW GPC’s. For Diclofenac tablets, it is 15 times and for Clotrimazole cream, which is made locally, as much as 23 times. For the mere 16 out of 118 items surveyed, the Georgetown Hospital would have saved over one hundred million dollars of taxpayers’ money (G$100 milion) had it purchased them from NEW GPC.

The local manufacturing giant strongly believes its quotations are being deliberately excluded or timed in such a manner to facilitate ANSA McAL. “Case in point is the Georgetown Hospital’s recent purchase of Oxytocin (Item# 114) from ANSA McAL when NEW GPC had inventory on hand and offered it at what is now confirmed at a fraction of the price. In any case, what reason could be there for an emergency purchase from ANSA McAL if NEW GPC was offering stock on hand at a better price? And what about other local suppliers?” NEW GPC questioned.

NEW GPC also noted that in recent meetings with suppliers, Georgetown Public Hospital’s senior management insisted that they will seek out the lowest price to determine tender awards.

“Choosing to do business with ANSA McAL with these exorbitant prices is contrary to that publicly stated position and it is tantamount to misleading the other bidders who were present,” NEW GPC said.

Local supplies

The company also highlighted that the Georgetown Public Hospital’s previous preference for cheapest prices created the opportunity for some importers to supply inferior products at the exclusion of locally manufactured items and this most certainly had adverse consequences on patients.

NEW GPC also noted with concern, the Georgetown Hospital’s recent removal of the 10 per cent preferential treatment for locally

 

Several mandirs participate in Chowtaal singing in Queens

By Vishnu Bisram

holiAs in Guyana, Holi or Phagwah is being celebrated in New York City among the large Guyanese community. Several groups host Chowtaal singing at their mandirs. Chowtaal is very popular around this time of the year when the spring festival of Holi is observed. Usually, from the time of Holika Dahan or the planting of Holika, it continues for 40 days leading up the Phagwah (Holi) Day.

Last Sunday, the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha(USA Praant) hosted the 3rd annual Chowtaal Samelan at the Prem Bhakti Mandir in Jamaica, Queens as part of phagwah celebrations. The program was emceed by Anil Bedasie and Deepa Seetaram who did a splendid job.

The large congregation rapturously listened to some 16 groups from various Guyanese  mandirs and cultural organizations in the New York area with each singing several chowtaals. Each group had a minimum of ten participants. Every member of the Chowtaal group sang and beat jhals (cymbals) while some beat the drum (dholak) and the dantaal. The groups assembled in two rows of singers facing each other (semi-circle), with a “dholak” drummer at one end, singing lines of Hindi text antiphonally.

Some groups comprised of mostly young devotees such as the Sanataan Dharma Mandir of NY, the KalKa Roshni Youth group and the Queens Hindu Mandir Youth group with its 11 year old female dholak player.

The congregation became part of the singing groups echoing the lyrics or verses. Many could be seen clapping and dancing or gyrating with the music.

Chowtaal was brought to the Caribbean by indentured laborers from the North India regions of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Much of the lyrics of the chowtaals involve loud repetitions of chants about life and or on the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. It was transmitted to and institutionalized in the USA and Canada by Indo-Caribbbean immigrants. In Guyana, years ago chowtaal was sung by village or temple groups with members going from home to home and village to village.

The objective of the USA Praant is to continue this tradition by hosting the gols from the mandirs in the Tri-State area.

The USA Praant’s chairman Dave Thakoordeen, a cultural advocate, has been supporting Indian cultural activities around New York and in Guyana. Thakoordeen said the idea behind the samelan is to promote the art form and to celebrate the Indian culture.

The samelan also recognizes the work of the pioneers in introducing Indian cultural and musical art forms in the US. Thakordeen said he wants the youth to know and appreciate their culture. Chowtaal takes a lot of verses from the scriptures. So by learning and knowing chowtaal, they learn the scripture indirectly, Dave said.