…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.
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AP) – President Bush escalated the bitter debate over the Iraq war on Monday, hurling back at Democratic critics the worries they once expressed that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat to the world. “They spoke the truth then and they’re speaking politics now,” Bush charged. Bush went on the attack after Democrats accused the president of manipulating and withholding some pre-war intelligence and misleading Americans about the rationale for war. “Some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past,” Bush said. “They’re playing politics with this issue and they are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. That is irresponsible.” The president spoke to cheering troops at this military base at a refueling stop for Air Force One on the first leg of an eight-day journey to Japan, South Korea, China and Mongolia. During the stopover, he also met privately with families of four slain service members. After a Latin American trip with meager results earlier this month, the administration kept expectations low for Asia. “I don’t think you’re going to see headline breakthroughs,” National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said on Air Force One. He dashed any prospect that Japan would lift its ban on American beef imports during Bush’s visit and said a dispute with China over trade and currency would remain an issue after the president returns home. On Sunday, Hadley acknowledged “we were wrong” about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, but he insisted in a CNN interview that the president did not manipulate intelligence or mislead the American people. Iraq and a host of other problems, from the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina to the indictment of a senior White House official in the CIA leak investigation, have taken a heavy toll on the president. Nearing the end of his fifth year in office, Bush has the lowest approval rating of his presidency and a majority of Americans say Bush is not honest and they disapprove of his handling of foreign policy and the war on terrorism. Heading for Asia, Bush hoped to improve his standing on the world stage. “Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people,” Bush said. He quoted pre-war remarks by three senior Democrats as evidence of that Democrats had shared the administration’s fears that were the rationale for invading Iraq in 2003. Bush did not name them, but White House counselor Dan Bartlett filled in the blanks. -“There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons.” – Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. -“The war against terrorism will not be finished as long as (Saddam Hussein) is in power.” – Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. -“Saddam Hussein, in effect, has thumbed his nose at the world community. And I think that the president’s approaching this in the right fashion.” – Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., then the Democratic whip. “The truth is that investigations of the intelligence on Iraq have concluded that only one person manipulated evidence and misled the world – and that person was Saddam Hussein,” Bush charged. In the Senate, 29 Democrats voted with 48 Republicans for the war authorization measure in late 2002, including 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and his running mate, John Edwards of North Carolina. Both have recently been harshly critical of Bush’s conduct of the war and its aftermath. On Capitol Hill, top Democrats stood their ground in claiming Bush misled Congress and the country. “The war in Iraq was and remains one of the great acts of misleading and deception in American history,” Kerry told a news conference. Bush is expected to get a warmer welcome in Asia than he did earlier this month in Argentina at the Summit of the Americas, where Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez led a protest against U.S. policies and Bush failed to gain support from the 34 nations attending for a hemisphere-wide free trade zone. Japan, the first stop on Bush’s trip, and Mongolia, the last, are likely to give him the most enthusiastic response, while China and South Korea probably will be cooler but respectful. In South Korea, Bush also will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Busan, where 21 member states are expected to agree to support global free-trade talks. The summit also is expected to agree to put early-warning and information-sharing systems in place in case of bird flu outbreaks. “It is good for the president to show up in Asia and say, `We care about Asia,’ because that is in doubt in the region,” said Ed Lincoln, senior fellow in Asia and Economic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. At Bush’s first stop, in Kyoto, Japan, the president will deliver what aides bill as the speech of the trip on the power of democracy, not only to better individual lives but contribute to the long-term prosperity of nations.