…laments reduced parliamentary sittingsAs the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) continue to compile evidence mainly against individuals linked to the former Administration, Chartered Accountant and Attorney Christopher Ram has condemned the parallel police agency, saying that some business persons are operating in fear that they too could come in for scrutiny.Chartered Accountant Christopher RamHe made these comments on Friday at a symposium on the National Budget which was organised by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).Ram highlighted that Guyanese have reduced purchasing power owing to a weaker economy, adding that business persons were conducting their operations under fear, especially if they were very successful and would have attained much wealth.“Business people now operate under the fear of alternative police bodies; one called SOCU and other, SARA. SARA is, in my view, the worst piece of legislation that has been enacted in post-independence Guyana,” he stated.The activist claimed that SARA was run by a director who selected the persons he would target.“A political leader, Dr Clive Thomas, who was for many years a champion of the working class, is now head of an organisation where he is bigger than the organisation – he reports to no one, [but] occasionally does a report to the National Assembly. He chooses which person he should target and who he should not,” Ram pointed out.The Chartered Accountant later denounced the reduced sittings of the National Assembly, saying that members have officially met only 16 times under the current Parliament. The trade union members were reminded that three substantive pieces of legislation were passed during 2017, one of which was the Hamilton Green Pension Act, which gave the former Prime Minister his pension, benefits and facilities. Another bill passed was the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Bill 2017, in which Government sought $116 million from taxpayers to assist with the agency’s establishment and support staff.“If this Parliament doesn’t operate for two years, you wouldn’t even notice it – such is the incompetence with which our Parliament operates,” he observed.Ram also claimed that this was the most expensive Government in Guyana’s history with the most Ministers and Ministries, adding further that many persons were indeed enjoying the good life.Ram also reminded the FITUG gathering that the current Administration had given itself, public officers and all other Members of Parliament hefty salary increases shortly after assuming office.“No wonder they love to travel so much; after all you could make a good living. You don’t have to worry about Parliament [because] Parliament meets occasionally,” he quipped.SARA and SOCU have long been accused by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) of going after its members and associates. In May 2017, several persons attached to the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) were charged and later arraigned at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts for allegedly omitting from the general ledger of the GRDB, $362 million while they served on the entity’s Board.These persons were former GRDB General Manager Jagnarine Singh; former Deputy General Manager Rickey Ramraj; Director Badrie Persaud; former Deputy Permanent Secretary (Finance) of the Agriculture Ministry Prema Roopnarine; PPP parliamentarian Nigel Dharamlall and head of the Rice Producers Association, Dharamkumar Seeraj. They were all released on $500,000 bail each.SARA was accused of being run by political directives, but its Head, Professor Thomas saw those accusations as baseless and rejected the claims, stating that there was no evidence to prove they were true. Dr Thomas had also defended the SARA Bill, saying that it had no place for politicians.While noting that the Bill contained some good elements, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had observed that his Party would remove the ambiguity about private property.He further added that the PPP would ensure that the head of the unit was accountable to someone else, as opposed to leaving it to Professor Thomas to make his own decisions. The Opposition had also pointed out that the Director of SARA was given powers that are 10 times greater than those of the Police Force.
The first Information and Communication Technology (ICT) hub for 2018 was officially launched on last week, in Sisters Village on the East Bank of Berbice (EBB).The ICT hub’s establishment was made possible through a partnership between the Ministry of Public Telecommunication (MoPT), the National Data Management Authority (NDMA), and the Guyana Police Force (GPF).Cutting of the ribbon: Director Phillip Walcott assists two young members of Sister Village to officially launch the ICT hub. Looking on is Commander of ‘B’ Division Lyndon AlvesAddressing residents, Director of Community Development and Social Management, of the NDMA, Phillip Walcott said the Government is working to introduce more services online. Soon, residents of Sisters Village will be able to apply for birth vertificates, passports, make land registry queries and access other services online. Walcott urged villagers to share their knowledge with others who are willing to learn, “so no one gets left behind as the country moves into the digital age”.Also expressing his satisfaction with the establishment of the ICT hub was Commander of ‘B’ Division, Linden Alves. The Commander noted that the community will now be able to benefit from the internet service. He also expressed appreciation to the MoPT, on behalf of the Guyana Police Force, and made a commitment that the GPF is prepared to collaborate to establish hubs in other communities.In August 2016, a survey was conducted in the village by Regional Staff of the National Data Management Authority (NDMA) to determine the youth population, the number of micro, small, and medium enterprises; safe spaces within the community and the cost of assessing internet service, among other factors.Commander of ‘B’ Division Lyndon Alves and Director of Community Development and Social Management, NDMA, Phillip Walcott.Following a thorough assessment, it was discovered that the Sisters Community Centre was inhabitable as a result of vandalism. However, through Community networking, the decision was made to approach the GPF to assist with providing a safe space within the Sisters Police Station to facilitate the ICT hub. Commander Alves readily agreed to the idea.The Sisters Police Station has a youth group of over 70 youths between the ages of seven and eighteen. These youths are involved in skills building activities such as arts and craft which they proudly displayed at the launching ceremony.This hub takes the total to 17 established in Region Six , with a further 18 more slated to be operational by December 2018.