Cabi­net makes de­ci­sion to go af­ter an­other PPP/C Par­lia­men­tar­ian

Weekend Mirror - - EDITORIAL -

Cabi­net

at its Jan­uary 24 meet­ing de­cided to have the po­lice in­ves­ti­gate a $100M loan the Guyana Rice Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion’s (RPA), which was used to pay rice farm­ers. RPA Head, Dharamku­mar Seeraj, is also a Peo­ple’s Pro­gres­sive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Par­lia­men­tar­ian.

The Fi­nal Re­port of the Foren­sic Au­dit on the Guyana Rice De­vel­op­ment Board (GRDB) was handed over to Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice, See­lall Per­saud at his of­fice yes­ter­day, in the pres­ence of Head of the Spe­cial Or­gan­ised Crime Unit (SOCU), As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Syd­ney James. The re­port was handed over by Min­is­ter within the Min­istry of Fi­nance, Jaipaul Sharma. The au­dit was done by the firm, Nigel Hinds and As­so­ci­ates.

The loan agree­ment fea­tured the sig­na­tures of for­mer Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture Dr. Les­lie Ram­sammy and was re­port­edly ap­proved by for­mer GRDB Gen­eral Man­ager Jag­nar­ine Singh.

Ram­sammy in ex­plain­ing the mat­ter in the past, had said, “The fact is that we did pro­vide a sum of $100M to pay farm­ers from Re­gion 3 who were not paid for the paddy sold in the first crop of 2014. The pay­ments were made af­ter farm­ers di­rectly and through the RPA made rep­re­sen­ta­tion for re­lief af­ter Qual­ity Rice Co-op failed to pay the farm­ers for paddy which they pro­cured from the farm­ers.

“Qual­ity Co-op pro­cured an amount of paddy to­tal­ing more than $220M. Some of the farm­ers were share­hold­ers of the Co-op, but oth­ers were rice farm­ers from Re­gion 3 who sold their paddy to the Co-op. We de­cided we will pay those farm­ers who were not mem­bers of the Co-op.

“The RPA was en­gaged by the GRDB and the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture to fa­cil­i­tate the pay­ment, since we wanted to en­sure that Qual­ity Co-op did not use the re­sources to pay the mem­bers them­selves.”

Mean­while, Seeraj has ad­dressed the mat­ter sev­eral times in the Na­tional Assem­bly, in re­sponse to com­ments made by mem­bers in the Gov­ern­ment benches. The head of the RPA, in prior com­ments, had said that the RPA had pro­vided the GRDB with the list of farm­ers who were paid us­ing the $100M.

Seeraj stressed that at the time farm­ers were not paid and lit­i­ga­tion was pend­ing be­tween the co-op and the Ruimzeight Rice Mill which was hired by the for­mer to mill the paddy for ex­port to Venezuela. Seeraj said that he wanted to get farm­ers paid quickly be­cause once the is­sue moved to the courts farm­ers would be left in the lurch.

He ex­plained that the coop was given a pre­lim­i­nary 4,000-tonne quota that was to be sold un­der the PetroCaribe Venezue­lan Rice Agree­ment and at the time a tonne of paddy’s world mar­ket price was about US$500.

Seeraj made clear that the RPA was just used to fa­cil­i­tate the trans­fer of money to farm­ers but that the co-op and its mem­bers which in­clude the pro­pri­etor of the rice mill, Turhane Do­erga, were well aware that they would be re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing back the funds.

No­tably, the au­dit into GRDB was or­dered by the gov­ern­ment since June of 2015. Over the last few weeks, Seeraj and the RPA has been at the fore­front of protests against what has been deemed the “dra­co­nian” in­creased forced on farm­ers by the cur­rent Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment, via the Ma­haica, Ma­haicony Abary Agri­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (MMA/ADA).

RPA Head and PPP/C MP, Dharamku­mar Seeraj, ad­dress­ing farm­ers dur­ing a protest out­side the MMA/ ADA Re­gion 5 of­fice

The Cabi­net de­ci­sion also comes days be­fore Seeraj and other stake­hold­ers are set to meet with the MMA/ ADA Board of Di­rec­tors, to­mor­row (Fri­day, Jan­uary 27) on the mat­ter. The RPA has called for the land rental fees re­main the same, un­til there are broad based con­sul­ta­tions with farm­ers in the MMA area.

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