Recent events review Saturday, December 30th to Friday, January 5th

Saturday, December 30th GGMC team clinched Exxon pact –Trotman

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman yesterday distanced himself from negotiating the modified ExxonMobil contract last year saying it was a team of professionals that conducted the discussions and even in hindsight his government is satisfied with the terms reached. “I know there is a belief that Raphael Trotman sat in a room and negotiated this. I am a lawyer for 27 years standing, I have a Master’s Degree in which negotiations was one of the subjects I had to pass, I graduated with distinction and  I have been trained as a negotiator and mediator by Harvard Law School, but I did not take it upon myself to do so,” Trotman said yesterday. “The country in the past has relief on the technical staff of the GGMC…Mr Newell Dennison (Commissioner of GGMC) and his team were the principal negotiators (of the Exxon petroleum agreement),” he added. The Minister of Natural Resources joined Minister of State Joseph Harmon at a post-Cabinet press conference yesterday at the Ministry of the Presidency where he answered questions on the controversial contract agreement signed with ExxonMobil last year.  The agreement was released a day earlier at the same location in the presence of President David Granger.

Canal No. 1 in deep flood after heavy rain

Residents of Canal Number One, West Bank Demerara say the flooding they are experiencing is a direct result of the main drainage canal not being cleaned in preparation for the rainy season. Stabroek News was told that the contractor who was tasked with clearing the canal ceased operations over non-payments. Jacoba Constantia-Conservancy Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) Chairman Dhanraj Bipath, yesterday explained that the annual contract for the cleaning of the canal was not awarded to the contractor for this year. Bipath said he was carrying out works on a bi-monthly basis and the contractor had started cleaning the canal in November but stopped after he was not receiving payments. The canal is maintained by the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) and not his NDC he stated. Stabroek News was unable to contact the NDIA for a response. “It is because there wasn’t regular maintenance we are in this situation today. After we noticed the water was being accumulated in yards we had to start self-help work on Christmas Day and the next day because nowhere was open to offer us help,” the NDC chairman explained. An excavator has since been deployed and is currently removing moss from the canal, to allow for the water to be drained off.  One resident told this newspaper that the moss in the water grows rapidly and as a result constant maintenance is important.

Mason remanded over Sophia murder

A Kitty mason was yesterday remanded to prison after he was charged with the murder of Sophia resident Celwin Mark Allen on Christmas night. Bevon Stephon Griffith a/k ‘Kevin’ and ‘Spoony’, a mason, 20 years, of 197 Pike Street, Kitty, appeared before Magistrate Alisha George at the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court. He was not required to plead to the indictable charge. After the charge, which states that he murdered Allen on December 25, was read to him in court he was remanded until January 29, 2018.

Sunday, December 31st President proposes Benjamin as Chancellor

Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo will at the request of President David Granger attend a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the possible appointment of Chief Justice of Belize, Kenneth Benjamin as Chancellor of the local judiciary. Speaking with the Sunday Stabroek yesterday, Jagdeo said that he had received a letter from Granger early last week requesting that he attend a meeting on Friday December 29. The letter indicated that Justice Benjamin had been recommended for the post of Chancellor while the acting Chancellor, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards is being considered for the substantive post of Chief Justice. Justice Roxane George, SC is currently the acting Chief Justice. Both women were appointed in March this year as part of a temporary arrangement between Granger and Jagdeo. Their predecessors, Justices Carl Singh and Ian Chang SC both retired without being substantively appointed Chancellor and Chief Justice, respectively. The meeting was at Jagdeo’s request rescheduled for Wednesday January 3 since he was unavailable.  The Leader of the Opposition noted that the résumés of the two individuals were delivered with the invitation.

Monday, January 1st Exxon’s new well site looks promising

ExxonMobil’s oil future looks even brighter here as sources say its Ranger 1 Well which is located in the Stabroek Block and where its subsidiary  EEPGL  began exploration drilling in October shows promise to be better than Liza and the other four wells that have unearthed commercial oil discoveries  thus far.“Ranger 1 has carbonate play meaning it has a carbonate reservoir  feature and from preliminary interpretation of that exploration it has so far showed positive porosity for oil and gas…so yes the prelims are indeed better than at the other wells,” one source told Stabroek News. However, the source was quick to point out that “it is too early to determine a lot of things” and that “much more testing and evaluation” needs to be done before confirmation on approximate oil and gas bearing capacity. The Stabroek Block is 6.6 million acres (26,800 square kilometers). Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) is operator and holds 45 percent interest in the Stabroek Block. Hess Guyana Exploration Ltd holds 30 percent interest and CNOOC Nexen Petroleum Guyana Limited holds 25 percent interest. Last Thursday Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman said that thus far oil reserves in the block have been placed at 3.2 billion barrels. Ranger 1 covers an area of approximately one square kilometer. Ranger is Exxon’s seventh well exploration and if there is confirmation of another oil find it will be the sixth such well to forecast commercial quantity unrefined petroleum in Stabroek Block that ExxonMobil’s shares with its partners. According to the company’s project overview   of works in the Stabroek Block, the Liza-1 well discovery was announced in May 2015 following drilling. The Liza-2 well was drilled and tested in July 2016 while the Liza-3 well was drilled in October 2016, confirming a world-class resource discovery in excess of 1 billion oil-equivalent barrels.

President expects UN SG to fulfil commitment on Venezuela border controversy

In his New Year’s address, President David Granger says that the United Nations (UN) Secretary General is this year expected to set the course of the long-running border controversy with Venezuela. With the country expecting an announcement by yesterday on the Venezuela border controversy, Granger said he expects that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to discharge his commitment. “We signified, in the year 2016, that the year 2017 would be spent in setting the settlement of the unlawful and unreasonable claims to our country’s territory on a definite course. The United Nations Secretary General, in 2018, is expected to discharge his commitment to setting that course in a manner consistent with justice and international law”, the President said in a copy of his remarks released by the Ministry of the Presidency. In recent weeks the government here has said very little about what will happen with the border controversy. Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had said that the UN Good Offices process would run for one more year and if at the end of 2017 there had been no progress the matter would be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. This is what Guyana has been advocating for. Over the last year Guterres appointed a representative, Dag Nylander to shuttle between Georgetown and Caracas on the matter. There is no sign that any substantial progress has been made in resolving the controversy.

SWAT Commander held after 30 cases of whiskey found in bus Motie Dookie

Motie Dookie

The police this morning said that a Detective Superintendent is currently conducting an investigation involving a Deputy Superintendent of Police who is the Commander of the Special Weapons and Tactics  (SWAT) Unit. The police did not name the Deputy Superintendent but his name is Motie Dookie. The police say that that the Deputy Superintendent was in a minibus last night on the Whim Public Road, Corentyne which was stopped by a police anti-crime patrol and in which thirty cases of whiskey were found. The Deputy Superintendent and the driver of the minibus were the only occupants and from initial reports the police say that the Deputy Superintendent indicated that ten cases of whiskey were in the minibus and he was taking it to be used for ‘a party’. However, the search of the minibus revealed the thirty cases which were seized. The Deputy Superintendent who is based at Police Headquarters was not permitted by his Commanding Officer to leave Georgetown.

Wednesday, January 3rd SWAT commander should be sacked

Commander of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit Motie Dookie, who was placed under close arrest after he was reportedly caught with 30 cases of smuggled whisky, should be dismissed from the force, according to Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan. In a telephone interview with Stabroek News, Ramjattan said Deputy Superintendent of Police Dookie “should face the full brunt of the law and when I say full, I mean he should be dismissed.” “This is a very serious offence committed by a senior member of the force. Dookie has violated the principles and integrity of the police force… we cannot have rogue elements like him in the force…elements like him do damage to the force,” Ramjattan added. Ramjattan noted that he does not have the authority to dismiss the commander and if such a measure has to be taken, it should be done by the Police Service Commission (PSC). The PSC is yet to be reconstituted since the life of the previous body expired late last year.

ATV rider dies in Baramita accident

Shurland Medas

A young businessman from Baramita, North West District died after losing control of his All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) on New Year’s night. Reports reaching this newspaper state that 24-year-old Shurland Medas popularly known in the area as “Sunny,” had left a hangout spot in the area and was heading home when the accident occurred It was noted that Medas, a father of two was flung onto the roadway after he lost control of the ATV as a result of riding into a hole along the road. He reportedly sustained head and neck injuries and was rushed to the health centre in the area where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Stabroek News understands that the state of the road where the accident occurred continues to be bemoaned by residents in the area as it has been filled with gaping holes for some time now.

Two cops under close arrest over rape allegation

The Police Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has launched an investigation into an alleged rape committed by two policemen who are stationed at the Turkeyen police station. The policemen are under close arrest for the act which allegedly occurred on New Year’s Day. Police Public Relations Officer, Jairam Ramlakhan today confirmed to Stabroek News that an investigation is underway and the OPR is working to complete investigations soon. Ramlakhan explained that the woman went to the station to lodge a report against an individual who threw a squib at her son. It was while the woman was at the station she requested to use the washroom but was told the washroom on the bottom flat was not working. The constables then directed her to the top flat to another washroom and while using the washroom she was allegedly attacked.

 

Thursday, January 4th DDL eying Enmore estate

In a bid to secure molasses for its rum production, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) has expressed interest in securing some assets of GuySuCo and sources close to the process say that its interest is in owning the Enmore Sugar Estate. “DDL has submitted a proposal of its intentions to secure Enmore and it is to secure their molasses needs,” an official told Stabroek News. However, the company’s Public Relations Officer Alex Graham would only say that an Expression of Interest (EOI) was submitted to the Special Purpose Unit (SPU), the body set up by the government to handle the divestment and privatization of GuySuCo’s assets. “The SPU of NICIl put out an ad for expressions of interest for GuySuCo’s properties and DDL responded. In keeping with the EOI advertisement we said that given the future of molasses we are hereby securing our supplies. We don’t know what is there so we haven’t made a formal structured bid for anything. When the perspective is out we will know what we want,” Graham explained to this newspaper yesterday. The SPU has to conduct a valuation of the available GuySuCo assets and this is the next step. Stabroek News was referred to Graham by DDL officials when it approached the company for comment on the matter yesterday. Pointing to a press release the company had put out last week, Graham echoed that GuySuCo will not be able to meet DDL’s molasses requirements for this year. “This is a real 2018 problem for which a resolutions is not in sight as yet,” he stressed.

Ex Ministry of Business employee charged with forging scrap metal licence Neilson McKenzie

Former business liaison officer of the Ministry of Business, Neilson McKenzie Jr, was yesterday charged with forging a scrap metal export licence, while an employee of a scrap metal company was also read a similar charge. McKenzie Jr, 28, of 344 Timehri Hill, EBD and a manager at the Tower Suites Hotel was yesterday taken before the Chief Magistrate and read the charge. The charge stated that between June 20, 2017 and October 2, 2017, at Georgetown, with intent to defraud, he forged a scrap metal export licence, purporting to show same to be a genuine scrap metal export licence in favor of Puran Sagnauth, on behalf of Avinash Scrap Metal Dealership. McKenzie Jr denied the allegation.

 Jagdeo asks for month to consider judicial nominees

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday asked for a month to conduct due diligence checks on President David Granger’s nominee for the position of Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Kenneth Benjamin. The President acquiesced and the two sides will meet again on February 7th when Jagdeo will inform if the nominees for Chancellor and Chief Justice, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards meet his approval. “I asked for an additional month to do my due diligence work before I can consider the candidate,” Jagdeo told Stabroek News yesterday.  Sources close to the PPP were quick to point to out that the additional period asked for should in no way be taken to mean that their Party Leader will select the candidate proposed as the checks will determine his (Benjamin’s) suitability. The President and Opposition Leader yesterday met at State House, Georgetown, with their respective teams, to discuss the appointments of a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice. Discussions were also had pertaining to the nominees to the Teaching Service Commission (TSC).

Friday, December 5th Can’t send home 4,000 without options -Corentyne Chamber Head tells Holder

President of the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, Mohamad Raffik yesterday blasted the government for the retrenching of 4,000 sugar workers without there being an alternative for them. The Berbice sugar belt has been rocked by GuySuCo’s severing of 4,000 even while the government has been unable to offer options though it was meant to be working on this for around two years. Rose Hall, Skeldon and the Enmore estates have been targeted. Wales was shuttered the year before. “You just cannot send home 4,000 people and you have no alternative”, said the Chamber Presi-dent. He added, “Give the people alternatives and then you could have closed it”. The Chamber President stated, “Immediately there should have been some kind of plan, either you giving lands to the workers, or opening more lands so people could farm, more can plant rice and cash crop”. Raffik also said that the Chamber was bothered by the fact that government officials did not meet with the workers and explain the closure. “You send a human resource person to give a man a letter and he work for over 20 years, that should not have happened”, he declared. No senior government official has gone to Berbice to speak to the workers since the mass layoffs were announced. Holder had no formal engagement planned with them yesterday.

Colombians, Venezuelans among nine held after Waini cocaine bust

Nine persons are currently in the custody of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) following a huge cocaine bust in the Waini River over the weekend. Sources told Stabroek News that the men in custody are Guyanese, Colombian and Venezuelan nationals. They were all arrested on the day of the bust. CANU is currently preparing to move to the court for an extension of time to further detain the suspects, the source said. The source told Stabroek News the bust could possibly go down as one of the largest in CANU’s history. A quantity of cocaine and an undisclosed amount of cash, including US and Canadian dollars, were found during the bust, the source indicated. The source noted that CANU is also working with the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to determine if a recent raid by SOCU in Republic Park, East Bank Demerara, is linked to the bust. During that raid, a huge amount of cash was found.

Driver gets four years over death of Bent St pensioner Kenneth Johnson

Kenneth Johnson, the driver who struck and dragged a Bent Street pensioner to her death on Tuesday, will be spending the next four years in jail after he pleaded guilty today to a charge of causing death by dangerous driving. Johnson, 35, of ‘A’ Field, Sophia, Greater Georgetown, was arraigned before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in Georgetown on the charge that on January 2nd at Brickdam, he drove motor car PLL 2838 in a manner dangerous to the public, thereby causing the death of Jaclyn Joseph. Johnson, a labourer, pleaded guilty to the charge. The police prosecutor told the court that Johnson, who was proceeding east along Brickdam, approached the intersection at Cummings Street and saw the traffic light with seconds counting down before it would turn red.

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