Recent events review Saturday, December 16th to Friday, December 22nd

Amit Jairam

Saturday, December 16th Sugar layoffs to hit 4,000 by yearend

By December 29, approximately 4,000 employees across the sugar industry will be without a job, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) says. Speaking to Stabroek News on Thursday, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the sugar company, Audreyanna Thomas confirmed that around 4,000 workers across the various estates are going to be made redundant before the end of the year. At last count, the industry was said to have had approximately 17,000 workers. When questioned about the breakdown of numbers for each estate, Thomas related that the sugar company is currently in the process of auditing their figures and is only able to provide an industrywide number. In a bid to assist the retrenched workers and the sugar dependent communities and their surrounding environs which will suffer from the imminent mass layoffs and closure of estates, Thomas emphasized that GuySuCo will still be pursuing their Sustainable Communities Development Programme, Alternative Livelihood Programme and the Social Resilience Initiative.

Three charged with gunpoint robbery of bus passengers at McDoom

Three men were yesterday charged with robbing a minibus driver and several passengers at gunpoint of cash and valuables at McDoom, East Bank Demerara. City Magistrate Leron Daly heard the charges against Anthony Daymon, Eon Trotman and Kevin Abrams. The first charge against the trio stated that in the company of each other and armed with a firearm they on December 13, at McDoom, robbed Lilawattee Persaud of a $50,000 Blu phone, a bag, a purse and $1500 cash, the total value of the items being $55,000. They also allegedly robbed Saheeda Azeez of a $40,000 Samsung phone, documents and a purse, totalling $43,000 in value. Another charge stated that the three defendants robbed Ryan Thomas of $4,000 and Dawnette Francis of a bag and a purse, totalling $6,500 in value. Anthony was then read a charge which alleged that on the same December 13th at Agricola he had a .38 Taurus revolver in his possession without being the holder of a licensed firearm. He was also charged with having four live .38 rounds of ammunition in his possession without being the holder of a licence.

President says if advised of illegality over Exxon bonus at BoG he will correct it

President David Granger this morning said that while he does not believe that the placing of the US$18M ExxonMobil signing bonus into a Bank of Guyana (BoG) account instead of the Consolidated Fund violates any laws, if advised by his legal team that the act was unlawful he will correct it. “I do not accept that it was illegal, I would not do something that was unlawful,” Granger said at a press conference, only the second since taking office in May 2015.  It was held at the Ministry of the Presidency. Analysts have said that the placement of the money at the BoG is a clear violation of Article 216 of the Constitution. “It has not been proven that there is a crime. It was a course of action that was recommended and we feel that where the money is located at present would insulate it from being misused or stolen. So I don’t believe that there is any illegality or I don’t think there is any corruption or intention to misuse that money. As I said it was put there for a reason and if we are advised by the lawyers that it does not conform to regulations we will comply with the ruling of any court or we will comply with legal advice,” he added.

Sunday, December 17th Guyana lost out on US$5M investment -Baron Foods Head

A recent US$5M investment in Trinidad by condiments and sauces producer, Baron Foods should have been Guyana’s venture but owner Ronald Ramjattan believes politics got into the way and he was forced to turn to the Twin-Island Republic. However, Ramjattan is still hoping that he will soon get the land here he wishes to lease and that his dream of bringing his business to the country of his birth will soon be a reality. “I did six, yes six, applications under the last govnerment and I want to think that it is because of Khemraj (Ramjattan, Minister of Public Security) that I never got through,” he told the Sunday Stabroek in an interview via telephone.  The Minister of Public Security is Ronald Ramjattan’s cousin. Khemraj Ramjattan was a fierce opponent of the previous government. Last month, Baron Foods, which was founded by Ramjattan over twenty years ago opened a US$5M manufacturing facility in Chaguanas, Trinidad employing over 50 locals.

Monday, December 18th Exxon pact should be rejigged to give 7% royalty –Goolsarran

Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran says that the agreement between Guyana and ExxonMobil should be renegotiated to give this country a royalty of 7% on oil produced instead of the current 2% and he also said that there should be a switch from a profit-sharing arrangement to a revenue-sharing one. In his Accountability column in today’s Stabroek News (see page 8), Goolsarran also said that the government had irreparably damaged its credibility over its handling of the secret ExxonMobil signing bonus and he said the US$18m which is now at the Bank of Guyana should be immediately transferred to the Consolidated Fund and if not a judicial review should follow. He said that assuming that 300 days will be worked for the year and a market price of crude oil of US$50 per barrel, the 2% royalty works out to US$30 million annually (i.e.100,000 x 300 x US$50 x 2%), or a mere 2.3% of the national budget. “We strongly believe that the agreement with ExxonMobil should be renegotiated with a view to Guyana receiving a royalty of at least 7% instead of the current 2%. This is in addition to switching from a profit-sharing arrangement to a revenue-sharing one…the negotiating team should be a tripartite one, comprising Government, the Political Opposition and Civil Society, each with equal standing”, he stated.

Meten-Meer-Zorg man dies after `Chic Chic’ mayhem Amit Jairam

At least two men are reportedly in critical condition and one has died, after they were attacked and struck down at an event at the Tarla Dam tarmac, Meten-Meer-Zorg, West Demerara  on Saturday night. Dead is Amit Roy Jairam, also called Rocky, 36, of Lot 76 East Meten-Meer-Zorg. All the victims of the incident are reportedly residents of the village. It has been alleged that the perpetrator, a 54-year-old Stewartville resident, who once served as a police officer, in rage, chopped one of the men and struck the other three down. The attack reportedly followed a misunderstanding over a “Chic Chic” board game. The police have said that the events unfolded around 9:30 pm. According to police, the attacker, who is presently in custody, after the misunderstanding occurred, went to his minibus, BTT 5707, retrieved a cutlass, then returned to the scene, where he dealt 20-year-old Premnauth Basdeo a chop to the head. Next, he got into his vehicle and drove into the crowd of persons that was attending to the injured man, and so doing, struck down Jairam. Subsequently, the man was said to have returned to his vehicle and struck down two others—Randy Melville, 22, and Mohamed Ahmad, 43.

New stelling launched at Ykinipa

President David Granger yesterday commissioned a $21M stelling at Ykinipa Village, Pomeroon-Supenaam (Region Two), which leads from the Akawini Creek into the village. The launching follows years of residents being forced to traverse makeshift boards along a treacherous path under the previous administration even though a similar stelling was constructed farther up the creek, the Ministry of the Presidency said in a statement yesterday. The 1440 foot-long stelling is one of the many projects, which residents of Ykinipa and other villages in the Akawini are benefitting from, the release said.

Speaking to residents, President Granger said, “When I first came to this community and walked on that bridge, I said that this is very dangerous and that no resident deserves to access their community in this manner so I am very happy to see this. I am here because of you. I will be faithful to you. There are 215 villages but as far as possible, we will consider all of your requests and try our best to honour them,” he said.

Tuesday, December 19th Loss of US$5M investment must not be allowed to happen again – Finance Minister

Finance Minister Winston Jordan says that the loss of a US$5m investment to Trinidad because the prospective Guyanese investor was given a runaround here must not be allowed to happen again. He was referring to the case of St Lucia-based businessman Ronald Ramjattan who was reported in the last Sunday Stabroek as saying that he opted to make his investment in the Twin-Island Republic as the previous PPP/C government had not given him a favourable response. Speaking at the launching of the Burger King franchise yesterday at the corner of Camp and Regent streets yesterday, Jordan said “We note, with disbelief and distress, the loss of a US$5 million investment to Trinidad and Tobago, by a world-renowned Guyanese businessman, whose only crime appeared to have been being the cousin of now Hon. Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan. “This must never be allowed to happen, again. All investors, whether foreign or local, must be treated equally and with respect. They must feel wanted, not because of their friendship with this or that Minister or other high-ranking official, but because of their worth, the risk they intend to take, and the addition to the wealth of the nation. And so, we are working overtime to remove these and other disincentives to investing in Guyana, and to make the climate more attractive, especially for local entrepreneurs and start-ups, as we go through this difficult period of transitioning our economy away from its dependence on sugar”.

Hutashan Ramsingh

Lethem contractor conspired to enable landing of illegal aircraft – court hears

A Lethem contractor yesterday appeared in a Georgetown magistrate’s court charged with conspiracy to enable the landing of an illegal aircraft in the Rupununi. Hutashan Ramsingh, also known as ‘Seon Singh,’ had surrendered himself to the police last week after a wanted bulletin was issued in connection with the discovery of an illegal aircraft and airstrip near Santa Fe, in Region Nine in August. He appeared yesterday before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan who read him the conspiracy charge. The charge alleged that on August 10, and August 13, at Mandacoro Island, Savannah, Lethem, the defendant conspired with persons and others unknown to facilitate, the illegal landing of an aircraft on an unauthorized port of entry. Ramsingh was not required to enter a plea to the indictable charge.

Desmond Grandaoult

Cyclist dies after hit by bus on Vlissengen Road

A South Ruimveldt labourer yesterday succumbed to injuries he sustained after being involved in an accident on Vlissengen Road. Desmond Grandsoult, 42, a father of three, resided at lot 1710 Dedication Place, South Ruim-veldt Park, Georgetown. Police yesterday said that at about 8.45 am, minibus BTT 8476 was being driven by Jamal John when it collided with Grandsoult, a pedal cyclist who was proceeding in an eastern direction. The police said that from investigations the victim rode in front of the minibus in an attempt to cross the road. The left front side of the bus crashed into the rear of the bicycle and as a result of the impact, Grandsoult fell onto the road and was run over by the said mini bus. Following the collision, the driver lost control of the bus and it landed in the trench on the western side of Vlissengen Road. Grandsoult sustained serious injuries and was rushed to Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) in an unconscious state.

Wednesday, December 20thCops hunting for three escapees from Golden Grove station

The Guyana Police Force is currently engaged in a massive search to locate three prisoners who escaped from the Golden Grove Police Station on the East Bank last evening. A statement from the GPF last night said that the men escaped via an opening on the western wall. “A piece of metal believed to have been broken off from the lockups door and used to break the wall was found,” the statement adds. The men have been identified as Wayne Gilbert, Derrol James and Ivre Hooper Gilbert, 25, of 30 West La Penitence was expected to appear in court tomorrow for the murder of Rawle Rodrigues which occurred on January 20 last at Stabroek Square. James, 22, of 131 Middle Walk, Buxton  was arrested for a series of armed robberies while Hooper,25,of James Street, Albouystown was in custody for simple larceny.

Over 32,000

backlogged applications at Lands and Surveys –Benn

With over 32,000 backlogged land applications, the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) is moving towards digitizing its records with the hope that this would accelerate the process of acquiring lands and ease squatting. Commissioner of the GLSC Trevor Benn made this announcement yesterday at the organization’s end-of-year press engagement as he highlighted some of the challenges faced this year. Labeled as “chief” among the challenges, Benn said that squatting is often encouraged by the local authorities who are “known for giving them [citizens] approval to squat on embankments, to squat on reserves, to squat on government lands set aside for whatever purpose…” .  “…So we are trying to push back a little on that at the moment. You may have seen in the newspapers a number of ads about squatting and in 2018 we will try to work a little harder to enforce that,” Benn said. However, even though squatting is a persistent problem that continues to plague the Commission, Benn said that it is as a result of the process for acquiring lands being too longwinded. He noted that there are currently more than 32,000 applications in a backlog dating back to the 1980s. The number, he said, increases daily due to new applicants.

Bus driver robbed by armed bandits of $6m

A bus driver was yesterday robbed of close to $6 million by two armed men, who it was suggested trailed him on a motorcycle from Scotia Bank’s Robb Street location to South Ruimveldt. The victim, Stanley Simon, 54, of Alberttown, was on his way to pay a contractor for works done on his house, a release from the police stated. Simon had reportedly visited the bank around 11:45 am, when he withdrew $5,700,000 in cash and placed the sum in his bag before proceeding on foot to the bus park. There, the statement said, Simon took a Route 41 bus to the junction of the Festival City Entrance and Aubrey Barker Road, where he disembarked. Still on foot, when he turned into Cauliflower Street, where his house is being constructed, the suspects reportedly approached the man from behind and stopped alongside him. It was stated that the pillion rider then dismounted the motorbike and pulled a gun from his waist, which he pointed at Simon while relieving him of his haversack.

Thursday, December 21stCayenne-based man gunned down in Craig

(A 42-year-old French Guiana-based Guyanese was murdered by bandits during what appeared to be a robbery yesterday morning at Craig, East Bank Demerara and the police have since arrested one of three suspects. Dead is Purcell Moore Jr, a clothes vendor of Cayenne, French Guiana. Moore is suspected to have been shot at least three times; once in his abdomen and twice in his head. He was rushed to the Diamond Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The incident took place around 7am yesterday at Old Road Craig in the vicinity of the ‘short cut’. Stabroek News understands that Moore arrived in Guyana about two weeks ago to spend the holidays with his parents and other relatives. Reports revealed that he was returning to his parents’ Lot 28 First Street, Craig, EBD house when he was attacked by three suspects, who attempted to relieve him of the gold jewellery he was wearing. During the process, Moore reportedly scuffled with the bandits and was shot. He subsequently collapsed and the men fled the scene.

Life sentence for ‘devout Catholic’ who raped six-year-old girl

A man who incessantly described himself as a devout Catholic who could never hurt children, was yesterday handed a life sentence for raping and sodomising an eight-year- old girl, whom he began abusing at the age of six. Michael Abrams, was unanimously convicted on the two counts levelled against him, for rape of a child under the age of 16. He first sexually penetrated the now ten year old girl, sometime between January 1, 2013 and January 19, 2016. On the latter date, he was again found to have sexually molested the child. During the trial proceedings which were held in-camera, the court had heard testimony of Abrams inserting his finger into the young girl’s vagina, and also sodomising her. Prior to imposing sentence, Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall noted the convict’s unrepentance towards the offences committed. The judge said that his lack of remorse, coupled with the nature of the offences, and the circumstances under which they were committed, had all been taken into consideration, for the sentence arrived at.

Appeal Court orders NBS to pay $59m in pension to Maurice Arjoon

Justice of Appeal, Rishi Persaud, yesterday ordered the New Building Society (NBS) to pay over to dismissed manager, Maurice Arjoon, the more than $59M in pension owed to him. Of the $79,282,801 awarded to Arjoon earlier this year by High Court judge, Brassington Reynolds, for severance and other benefits, Justice Persaud has ordered that he be paid pension to the tune of $59,033,000. The court has, however, stayed the remaining $20,249,801 which was awarded to the sacked manager for severance. Following Justice Reynolds’ ruling, NBS had challenged the award granted to Arjoon. The bank appealed the judgment, citing more than a dozen grounds, including that it was erroneous and that pension could not be awarded together with severance and other benefits, when an employee is terminated or dismissed. It had expressed confidence that its appeal was on “sound grounds,” but also said that if perchance it loses, it will honour the judgment to be finally given in Arjoon’s favour. Justice Reynolds had awarded Arjoon the total of $79,282,801 after ruling that he was entitled to recover all benefits that were lost as a result of the dismissal.


Friday, December 22nd Severance to sugar workers will begin January – Holder

Payment of severance to 4,000 sugar workers will begin sometime in January, according to Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder. His statement at a press conference yesterday came amid concerns raised by the sugar union GAWU that it had been told by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) that there was no money for severance. The GuySuCo position reflected the ongoing dissonance between its statements and those by the Guyana Government on the massive ongoing upheaval in the industry. Holder said that payouts will commence in January but could not give a specific date. He said the decision was made by cabinet and despite what the union said about the sugar company not having money, allocations were made from the 2018 budget to the Agriculture Ministry to pay the workers.  In addition to the budgetary allocations, he also pointed out that there are funds that will also be available through other avenues that will be used to pay the workers. In a press statement yesterday, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) stated that it was “dismayed and surprised” to learn during a recent engagement with GuySuCo that the sugar company has no money to pay the 4,000 workers who will be made redundant at the Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara estates by the end of the month

Shots fired, Yokohama manager waylaid, robbed of $1.4M

Firing shots, two bandits waylaid the manager of Yokohama Trading at Middle and Carmichael streets  at about 7.10 PM yesterday and robbed him of $1.4M.Deepak Balradj was not wounded by the gunfire and made a futile attempt to flee the bandits during which he crashed into a car which was nearby. The hair-raising attack in downtown Georgetown is part of a spate in recent weeks that have seen around a dozen vehicles hijacked and brazen robberies. The bandits have operated with impunity and appear not to be concerned about the police. According to information reaching Stabroek News, Balradj had left his head office in Kingston and drove east along Middle Street, turning right onto Carmichael Street. It was then two men armed with guns pounced on the car.

Departmental charges recommended against constables in Kescia Branche case

Departmental charges have been recommended against the two police constables who were placed under close arrest during the investigation into the murder of teacher, Kescia Branche, a statement from the Guyana Police Force said last night. The cops, identified as Constables Fraser and August are expected to face four charges which include neglect of duty; consuming intoxicating liquor while on duty; improperly entering licensed premises, and acting in a manner likely to bring discredit to the reputation of the Force, the statement added. The two on-duty constables were seen with Branche at the Blue Martini nightclub on Upper Lamaha Street in Newtown on November 4.  After leaving the nightclub, the trio had ventured to a barbeque spot on Mandela Avenue. From there, one of the constables said she left with a taxi. The two police constables and Branche’s ex-partner were deemed “persons of interest” in her death and were held for questioning before being released.

Around the Web