Gov’t, Patil Group still negotiating final land agreement

- company spokesman

General Manager of the Ajeenkya D Y Patil Group Dilip Kawad says that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with the Government of Guyana is for the cultivation of over 50,000 hectares of land and is in preliminary stages.

“We must clearly state that no land has been handed over to us and neither have we commenced any activities on the said land,” Kawad said in a statement to Stabroek News.

“The final agreement is still subject to the terms and conditions that are still under negotiations and will only be concluded when both parties are mutually satisfied,” he added.

Kawad further affirmed that the group is very committed to making this project successful; hence the need for lot of due diligence, pre-viability and technical studies before it begins operations.

While Kawad confirmed that the MOU was for 50,000 hectares of land, Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy on Friday told Stabroek News that the Group was already given 10,000 hectares in the Canje Basin. He said, “DY Patil negotiated for an agricultural project in Guyana. They have been given access to 10,000 acres of land. They will, like other investors, have access to more land if they develop the 10,000 acres in accordance with the agreement that they have with us.”

He noted that the Group has submitted a proposal to grow corn and sugar cane for biodiesel.

Ramsammy also noted that Guyana has three million hectares of agricultural land that has no infrastructure. “We have invited local and international investors to help develop that land. It is based on people submitting proposals to us and based on those proposals, we consider them and we sign Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to develop more details and to develop feasibility studies,” he explained.

He said that MOUs are based on proposals and they are not tendered. He denounced accusations by the AFC suggesting that the ADYP Group was given government favour based on a believed link with Surendra Engineering, the entity responsible for the Enmore packaging plant and which was given the contract for the Specialty Hospital. Dr Ramsammy stated that he had no knowledge of the validity of these concerns. “There was no special consideration given [to DY Patil]. I have no knowledge of any relationship to Surendra. I don’t know where those allegations are coming from,” he said.

 Transparency

AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan said that his party was investigating a link between the Patil Group and Surendra at a press conference last week. Ramjattan stated that initially there were reported links between the Group’s Chairman, Ajeenkya D Y Patil, and Surendra.

Observers and commentators have raised questions about the deal struck between the government and the Patil Group, particularly because of the latter’s connection to powerbrokers here and because the government has provided no information on it.

Ramsammy never made mention of the 50,000 hectares but it has been repeatedly reported that the land deal was initially for 65,000 hectares based on a Government Information Agency (GINA) release in June of this year.

The agriculture minister once again did not delve into the terms and conditions of the MoU, while the Group itself is calling the negotiation process transparent. “There is nothing secretive about these negotiations with the government and periodic press releases will be made on the progress of this project henceforth,” Kawad stated.

Meanwhile, Kawad also made mention of the Chairman’s appointment as Honorary Consul of Guyana in Mumbai, but once again no date of when this occurred was given. This publication once again requested the date of the appointment but there was no response up to press time. Continuing, Kawad sought to clarify the Chairman’s connection with former President Bharrat Jagdeo, stating that both have been awarded the doctorate by a reputed UK University at different occasions and Dr Ajeenkya D Y Patil was awarded the doctorate many years before it was awarded to Jagdeo. “The same is the case of the doctorate given by the D Y Patil University in India to… Jagdeo in view of his excellent work done,” he noted.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon stated at his weekly press conference last week that he was not yet prepared to answer questions about either of the Memoranda of Understanding between the government of Guyana and the D Y Patil Group nor China Paper, which was granted 60,000 hectares in the intermediate savannahs for pulp and paper production.

Luncheon stated that he would able to comment at his upcoming press briefing.

Prior to the reportage in the last Sunday Stabroek and Monday’s Stabroek News, there had been no information from the government on the details of MoUs clinched with the two companies.

APNU’s Shadow Agriculture Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine told Stabroek News that the government should be obligated to bring the various agreements to the National Assembly to be reviewed. He had noted that the “backdoor” way of doing business did not inspire trust and transparency. Many critics are asking if there is nothing to hide why is information not being freely handed over, especially since many government officials continuously say that information is public knowledge.