Former president Donald Ramotar said yesterday that the eight containers of steel belonging to fired specialty hospital contractor Surendra Ltd had been examined by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) hence his conclusion that the value was $800 million.
He therefore rejected the claim of businessman Brian Tiwarie that the containers contained only a small amount of steel.
Ramotar also denied several other claims made by Tiwarie last week. In a letter published in today’s paper, the latest in a back and forth between the two, the president said he had taken a stand against poor work and other shortcomings by Tiwarie’s company BK International and this was why Tiwarie is now making allegations against him.
Responding to a missive Tiwarie had sent out last week, in which he claimed that he had only written the “born PPP” letter to appease Ramotar and prevent his aviation company being evicted from the GuySuCo hangar, Ramotar said it was “absolutely untrue.” He said it was GuySuco that had granted BK permission to use the facility, not him or the government. Further, he said it was “not my policy or that of my government to interfere with entities governed by a board of directors.”
The former president also referred to Tiwarie recounting an incident where “certain APNU officials travelled on a flight which the Government of Guyana had chartered,” adding, “Of course I objected. I had every right to do so.” He also claimed that this instant had occurred long after Tiwarie wrote his “born PPP” letter.
Tiwarie had said that his aviation consultant Bobby Vieira had informed him that the company had provided a flight to Essequibo for a team of APNU/AFC campaign officials headed by Raphael Trotman. “Mr Trotman’s team was due to return to Georgetown the same morning that Mr Ramotar and his team went in,” Tiwarie said.
“As suggested by Mr Vieira, it would have been much more economical for the aircraft taking in the then president (as this was a one-way charter) to ferry Mr Trotman and his team back to Georgetown. Since this operation apparently annoyed the then president which he displayed on several occasions later, we were advised to write and offer an apology for any discomfort we may have caused him,” Tiwarie stated.
According to Tiwarie, this was the letter dated March 23, 2015 in which he had pledged allegiance to the PPP contrary to his statement that he had, almost a year earlier, taken a decision to vote for change. Ramotar had released this letter to the media.
But Ramotar said yesterday that the incident involving the flight had occurred long after the letter was written. Accusing Tiwarie of going “on a frenzy” and unleashing “a wild set of charges against me,” Ramotar called Tiwarie’s claim that the PPP/C had allowed Surendra’s representative to leave Guyana, “another lie. The truth is that after his case was completed with Surendra, the court discharged the injunction which prevented the representative from leaving Guyana. There is a Court Order to this effect. As a result, the representative was free to leave the country. This had nothing to do with the government. The fact is that the PPP/C ended this contract with Surendra after their breach and took legal and administrative measures to recover taxpayers’ money. Mr Tiwarie’s actions prevented the government from recovering these monies.”
Responding to charges by Tiwarie that his brother Shamus had been sold barges and a tug at very lucrative prices, without benefit of a tender process, Ramotar said he had spoken to his brother, who informed him that it was nothing of the sort.
His brother, he said, had never purchased any land from GuySuco nor did anyone buy such land on his behalf. “My brother offered to purchase land from GuySuco. He never received a response. My brother never purchased any pontoons or tugs from NICIL. My brother owns a tug, which he has owned long before I became president,” Ramotar said.
As regards the barge, he said it was one Tiwarie had for years and when it became unworkable he abandoned it at Parika and left to sink. “My brother was awarded a contract to fetch materials for the government. He was permitted to repair and use this same barge. This he did for years. Eventually, MARAD offered to sell him the barge. They produced a certificate of valuation. My brother purchased at a price above that valuation,” Ramotar said.
He then claimed that a few months ago, Tiwarie had caused SARU to investigate this matter and this was because Tiwarie wanted back the barge because it is now in good condition. “SARU investigated this matter and examined my brother’s documents. My brother has heard nothing since,” he said.
Tiwarie also charged that Ramotar’s brother had received a container of parts from a Chinese businessman. “Another lie,” he stated. “I was told that it is Mr Brian Tiwarie who introduced my brother to the Chinese businessman.”
Ramotar said his brother had told him that he had ordered from this businessman a part for the steering of his tug. “The gentleman obliged and brought it in. It was housed in a box not more than five feet long and three feet wide. That is a far cry from a 40 ft container. He also informed me that in Mr Tiwarie’s presence, he enquired from the gentleman, the cost, however, this gentleman refuse to accept any payment.”
Swearing that he has no personal vendetta against Tiwarie and his company, Ramotar said,
“The truth is that when I assumed office, it was reported to me that Mr Tiwarie’s companies had a long history of not meeting contractual deadlines and submitting huge variation to contracts already signed, sometimes more than the original contract value. I was unprepared to tolerate such abuse.”
He went on to list several contractual breaches by Tiwarie’s company. He said BK had been contracted to rent the GRDB Wharf and develop it with an option to purchase it at the end for $110 million. The rent was $10 million per year. No rent was paid for 4 years. No development works were done. As a result, NICIL filed legal proceedings and the case is pending in the court.
The former president said also that BK was contracted to build a wharf for GPL at Vreed-en-Hoop. There were tremendous cost overruns and delays as a result of which GPL was forced to move fuel by road instead. This cost the company millions of dollars in additional expenses.
“BK International fabricated a claim that GPL destroyed $600 million of heavy duty equipment which he claimed were on a piece of land at Vreed-en-Hoop, which he owned. In response GPL contended that the land was abandoned, overgrown with bushes and had some pieces of old iron on it, which they dumped in the bushes nearby. In fact, GPL claimed they spent $2 million to clear the land… BK International demanded $600 million in compensation and when this demand was refused they sued. The matter is still in court, the former president said in his latest letter.
He also referred to BK’s management of the Haggs Bosch project as a complete disaster, stating that the IDB had refused to fund the project if BK continued to be the contractor. As a result he said, his government terminated the contract.
The East Bank Road project, he said, was another casualty.
Three contracts to drill wells for GWI were awarded to him years ago, Ramotar said and to date none has been completed.
Ramotar concluded that he has no personal axe to grind with Tiwarie. Instead, he said, Tiwarie has a problem with him because he had demanded that contractors fulfil their contractual obligations.