Recent events review Saturday, May 19 to Friday May 25
Saturday, May 19
Suspected bandits killed after bid to rob city storeowner
Two suspected bandits were killed yesterday after an attempt to rob a city storeowner. The dead men have been identified as Trevor Barrow, 26, called ‘Buddha,’ of 1010 Norton Street and Cemetery Road, and Calvin Edwards, also known as Calvin Dover, 27, of Lot PP 6 Bent Street, Wortmanville, who police say attacked the owner of Les Variety Store at 22, D’Urban and Hardina streets, Wortmanville, Georgetown. Barrow was fatally shot inside the store by owner Roy Myers, acting Police Commissioner Paul Williams said yesterday. Edwards, meanwhile, was later shot and killed by police during a standoff in a house along Bent Street, where he allegedly sought refuge after managing to escape from the scene of the robbery.
Youth kept for years in Sophia pig pen rescued
A 22-year-old man, said to be mentally-ill, was yesterday rescued from a pig pen at back of his father’s North Sophia, Greater Georgetown home, where he was reportedly kept for at least three years. Responding to an anonymous tip that a father was keeping his son in a pen for almost a decade, members of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO) found Gopaul Etwaroo naked in a padlocked enclosure at the back of his father’s Lot 23 Block ‘R,’ North Sophia home. He is now at the Georgetown Public Hospital receiving treatment, while his father, Clement Etwaroo, and stepmother, Parbattie Sukhu, are in police custody. When the GWMO and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) arrived at the residence, they were greeted by a padlocked fence nearly 10-ft high.
Award of 600 blocks to Exxon subsidiary was vital to border security - Trotman
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman yesterday said that the award of 600 oil blocks to ExxonMobil’s subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), in 1999 was legal and the government would not be clawing back any as it was vital to border security that the US company retain control of the entire stretch. Addressing the National Assembly’s Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources, Trotman also said it would be the last time he would be answering questions on petroleum issues as he has given up responsibility for the sector. Trotman’s referencing of border security was the first time since oil was discovered here in 2015 that a senior government official has publicly stated that the award of 600 blocks was a strategic move to blunt any possible aggression from neighbouring Venezuela. The usual maximum number of blocks that should be assigned is 60 and questions have persisted in recent years as to why the 1999 Janet Jagan administration awarded more than 10 times this amount to the US oil giant’s subsidiary.
Sunday, May 20 ‘We tried to talk to him’
The family of Calvin Edwards, also known as Calvin Dover, one of the two suspected bandits shot and killed after they attempted to rob a city businessman on Friday, became aware that he chose a criminal path after his constant arrests and their relentless efforts to steer him away bore no fruit. “It was a shock when they learnt that he was involved. That’s why the family was relentless. In our family, we don’t have a [criminal] history. We have never seen nobody in our family thief and that is why we were shocked, we wanted to know where he get this kind of mentality from,” Wayne Dover, a cousin of the dead man, told Sunday Stabroek yesterday. Edwards, 27, of Lot PP 6 Bent Street, Wortmanville, and Trevor Barrow, 26, called ‘Buddha,’ of 1010 Norton Street and Cemetery Road, were killed on Friday after they allegedly attempted to rob businessman Roy Myers.
Monday, May 21
Investors nervy at challenges to deals under former gov’t –sources
In the aftermath of the questioning of investment deals struck years ago and charges against former officials over them, several investors mulling major agreements here have begun expressing reservations that these may not be upheld if the government changes. The concerns of the persons that Stabroek News spoke to stem from recent developments which suggest that as governments change there can be a “politicising” of business investments. With trepidation about the future potential implications of contracts entered into, at least three banks and two regional conglomerates have now turned to their legal analysts to provide information before committing to investing here, sources say. “You have Wales Estate investors telling government that they want to pull out because they are not totally sure that down the line questions would not be raised about their investments. People are concerned and this does not bode well for the economy and country,” one source told the Stabroek News. Additionally, another source informed that bankers of the Republic Bank (Guyana)-led syndicate of local and regional banks, which will provide $30B to GuySuCo in bonds for the revitalisation of its remaining sugar estates, have also voiced their concerns.
APNU+AFC gov’t has been visionless – David Hinds
Although lauding the three-year-old APNU+AFC government for strides in the areas of human rights and indigenous peoples’ outreach and development, political scientist David Hinds says it has been visionless with few tangible achievements to show Guyana’s citizenry. “Just three short years later, our country has lost hope again. The government that came to power with such mammoth goodwill has turned out to be the most unimaginative since independence,” Hinds said in comments to Stabroek News which were also contained in a column in yesterday’s Kaieteur News. “It has given Guyana nothing big and transformative to hold on to. It governs as if it has no sense of its own place in history. Its laudable vision outlined in its election manifesto has not been translated into policy. It stumbles from one political error to another. It is a coalition government that governs like a single-party government,” he added. Referencing advertisements and other mediums used recently by government to boast of achievements since taking office in 2015, Hinds said that it was clear it is all a charade and “we are back to square one” where the people are again showing signs of “hopelessness” and being tired of Guyana’s politics and politicians
Police commander says no sign of Sindicatos
Amidst concerns among miners of the presence of “Sindicatos” gangs operating in the Cuyuni River, Divisional Commander Kevin Adonis says that the Guyana Police Force has not found any evidence of such in a recent reported attack on a mining camp and questioned the motives of the miners. “I have seen miners mining on both sides of the countries’ borders with persons travelling back and forth but nobody can say who are a part of this gang they are calling the Sindicatos,” the commander told Stabroek News yesterday. Adonis’ comments come in the wake of President of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation Urica Primus’s recent expression of hope that that the resuscitated Hinterland Intelligence Committee can put measures in place to protect miners against the Sindicatos gangs reported to be operating in Guyana.
Tuesday, May 22
SOCU questions ex-Finance Minister Kowlessar over land deals
As the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) continues to investigate suspicious state land transactions made during the PPP/C’s time in office, former Finance Minister Saisnarine Kowlessar was yesterday detained for questioning and he was later released on $200,000 bail after declining to answer questions. Kowlessar voluntarily turned up at SOCU’s Camp Street headquarters, where he was placed under arrest and faced with questions for about two hours. A source told Stabroek News that Kowlessar was Finance Minister during five transactions which are being investigated by SOCU, as a result of the forensic audit of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL). As a result, the source said Kowlessar was requested to attend an interview, which he did, but “he didn’t cooperate. He said that based on the advice of his lawyer, he had nothing to say.” Kowlessar held the post of Finance Minister from 1999 when his predecessor Bharrat Jagdeo was appointed president, until 2006, when Dr. Ashni Singh took over the portfolio.
Harmon to run for PNCR Chairmanship
With Minister of State Joseph Harmon declaring his candidacy for the post of People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Chairman at its upcoming biennial congress, political analyst Dr. David Hinds says that the expected contest would likely signal which support base holds sway over the party. “…Harmon would have a bigger challenge since he is not a traditional party member— he has not come up through the party ranks. But it could also tell us which wing of the party holds sway—the traditional wing, which I think will go for [current Chairman Basil] Williams or the newer ex-army and APNU types, which I think will favour Harmon. This makes it a fascinating race,” Hinds told Stabroek News hours after Harmon publicly announced his intention to run for the post. Harmon, who is a PNCR executive, is the current Chairman of the governing coalition partner APNU, of which the PNCR is the largest constituent. Harmon’s potential challenge is seen as politically significant given that Williams, the current Attorney-General, has been holding the post for two terms. Party sources have told this newspaper that another executive member, Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, will also be vying for the post. The Chairman is the most senior party official after the Leader. President David Granger is currently party leader.
Cop freed of shooting teen, agrees to $2M compensation
The proceedings against former cadet officer Franz Paul, who was charged with shooting a then 15year-old Alex Griffith during a game of Russian roulette over four years ago, were withdrawn yesterday after an agreement by the accused to pay a total of $2 million in compensation to the youth. Paul, of Lot 189 Freeman
Street, East La Penitence, was on trial for almost four years over the shooting of Griffith, which occurred on April 30th, 2014, in Georgetown. He was charged two months after the shooting. The trial, which began in September, 2014, was in the final stages as the accused had led his defence in the matter in June 31, 2017 and the defence closed its case in February of this year.
Wednesday, May 23
Herstelling man accused of drowning estranged wife
APNU+AFC coalition yesterday expressed deep concern after 27 year old father and poultry farmer Carl Mangal was sentenced to three years’ incarceration, for the possession of eight grammes of marijuana. In a statement the party noted that it is not questioning the decision of the magistrate in any way as it recognizes that the magistrate, as is the case with all her colleagues, are “constrained by the law with regard to the issue of custodial sentencing for possession of small quantities of marijuana.” The party argued that possession of small quantities of marijuana is “an offence which is a mere error in judgement and not representative of criminal behaviour” but custodial sentences serve, in large measure, to criminalize young people, particularly young men who have been caught with these small quantities.
Thursday, May 24
GuySuCo complains to Agri Minister over SPU
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has lodged a complaint with Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder alleging that the unit set up by the government to oversee privatization of estates is demoralizing and destabilizing the Corporation. According to a letter seen by Stabroek News, Chief Executive Officer of GuySuCo Paul Bhim wrote Holder on May 18 setting out a litany of complaints about the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) which is functioning under government holding company, NICIL. It was the latest salvo in a battle over the role of the SPU which has seen a sharp division in the government over a new board for GuySuCo. A board that was gazetted to be headed by SPU Head Colvin Heath-London had to be scrapped and the process reverted to Holder’s jurisdiction. The SPU has been entrusted with responsibility for four shuttered estates: Wales, Rose Hall, East Demerara/ Wales and Skeldon. However, the purported HeathLondon board had also attempted to flex its muscle in relation to the estates which have remained open.
Bar Council raps Attorney General over comments on private lawyers
Recent comments made by Attorney General Basil Williams SC that private lawyers who fail to hand over cases involving the state should be charged, are out of place and unnecessary, the Bar Council of the Bar Association of Guyana said yesterday. “The Bar Council ….views the comments made by the Attorney General as an entirely unwarranted attack on the professionalism and the independence of the members of the legal profession, unbecoming of a member of the Inner Bar”, the Association said yesterday in reaction to the contents of an article published in the Kaieteur News on May 18, 2018. The Association said that it was very much concerned about the comments attributed to the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs. “The Attorney General, in referring to the conduct of litigation by lawyers in private practice for the State, is reported to have said that criminal action needs to be taken against lawyers conducting such litigation and that he `believes that [lawyers] need to start being charged now’. These statements of the Attorney General, in addition to ignoring the fact that it is the Director of Public Prosecutions, a constitutional office-holder, whose duty it is to determine when and under what circumstances persons should face criminal charges, may give the incorrect impression to the public that there is something wrong, sinister or unlawful with lawyers in private practice conducting litigation for the State”, the release said.
Court of Appeal rules against Grand Coastal in $31M VAT case
The Grand Coastal Inn will have to pay to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) the more than $31 million it owes in value added taxes (VAT) after the Guyana Court of Appeal on Monday ruled that the procedure used by the Revenue Authority to assess its VAT liability was lawful. In fact, the court noted that it was the process used by the hotel to mount its challenge against the GRA which was unlawful having regard to statutory stipulations which it contravened. In this regard, the appellate court pronounced that Grand Coastal’s action sought to falsely secure for them the temporary financial respite at the expense of the nation as the case wound its way through the court for over seven years. The court noted that not only will Grand Coastal now have to pay the full sum of $31,290,473 which it owes in taxes for 2007-2008, but all consequential interest imposed by the VAT Act.
Friday, May 25
Coconut output seen quadrupling by 2025
With a resurgence in the demand for coconut products globally, and consequent interest from investors, Guyana is anticipated to double its current coconut production within a few years, and quadruple it by 2025. Raymond Trotz, National Coordinator of the International Trade Centre (ITC), during a press briefing at the Agriculture Ministry yesterday, related that according to data from the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), there are currently over 25,000 acres of coconut trees within Guyana. He stated that advice from GO-Invest indicates that investors are interested in expanding that number by about 27 and a half thousand acres over a number of years, and based on their projection, to about 100,000 acres over a ten-year period, as compared to the 2015 figure of 24,000 acres. Under the European Union (EU)/African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Secretariat-funded programme ‘Coconut Industry Development for the Caribbean (CIDC),’ Guyanese farmers have been benefitting from training related to marketing, food safety, extension support, coconut production development and business training.
Third term decision to be handed down by July 3rd
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will have to hand down the highly-anticipated third term decision by July 3, the day that the court’s President, Sir Dennis Byron retires from office, Justice Adrian Saunders, the President-Designate said last night. Saunders made this pronouncement to reporters shortly after making a presentation on `The rule of law and the Caribbean Court of Justice’ at the fourth conversation of law and society, organised by the University of Guyana. Senior judicial officials, lawyers, law students, policemen and members of civil society were among those in attendance at the event which was held at Duke Lodge. During his presentation, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines native did not make any mention of the case. He later explained to reporters that given that Sir Dennis was among the judges who heard the matter, judgment has to be delivered before he demits office.
Former SWAT Head sent on special leave – police
The police yesterday said that with effect from May 22, 2018, Deputy Superintendent of Police Motie Dookie proceeded on Special Leave in the public’s interest, on full pay, as directed. It was the latest change in status of the former SWAT Head who is facing disciplinary proceedings over the discovery of 30 cases of whisky in a bus he was travelling in last December. Earlier this month, he was posted to the Police ‘A’ Division following his return from annual leave amidst the probe into whisky smuggling. Following concerns raised about this move, he was reassigned to Police Headquarters, Eve Leary a few days later. That decision has also now been changed. Stabroek News understands that Acting Commissioner of Police and Crime Chief Paul Williams attended a highlevel meeting last week Tuesday where a decision was made to have Dookie removed from ‘A’ Division and placed at the Force Control Unit, Eve Leary.