$4B GuySuCo housing deal…Housing Minister Irfaan Ali accused of more lies to Guyanese
DECEMBER 15, 2011 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
“Where are the 15,000 house-lots that he is speaking of if no money was allocated to develop the land that they paid GuySuCo $4B for?”– Ramjattan
Housing Minister Irfaan Ali is again being accused of blatantly lying to the nation in
relation to statements he made.
Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan, told this publication that the 15,000 houselots that Ali is now talking about in relation to the $4B paid to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for land in Diamond, appears to be a figment of Ali’s imagination or a deliberate attempt to mislead Guyanese.
Following the brouhaha that erupted over the manner in which the money was transferred to the state-owned in late 2009, it was also found that no money was allocated for the development of the land that the Housing Ministry purportedly bought.
Ramjattan said that it is Ali’s dishonesty that had put him in trouble in the first place when he along with the Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, breached the Laws of Guyana to have the money secretly transferred to GuySuCo as a bailout.
This bailout, according to Ramjattan, was necessitated by the mismanagement of the industry by individuals including the newly sworn in Labour Minister, Dr Nanda Gopaul, as well as the current President, Donald Ramotar, who were, at the time, both Directors on the Board of the ailing sugar corporation.
Ramjattan insisted that neither he nor his party is arguing against the development of houselots for Guyanese. However, the Minister breached the rules when the money found its way from the nation’s coffers to GuySuCo without the requisite Parliamentary approval, he said.
The AFC official recalled that the money was paid over to GuySuCo long before the Parliamentary approval was sought for its use and this is the issue that he had raised in the National Assembly, sparking a furore on the part of the Minister.
Ali was at the time also accused of flagrantly “disrespecting and acting in contempt of the National Assembly” when he attempted to avoid being grilled on the matter.
The state-owned Guyana Chronicle yesterday reported the Housing Minister as asking “What is so wrong with creating more than 15,000 houselots for Guyanese?”
Ramjattan retorted, “Where are the 15,000 house-lots that he is speaking of if no money was allocated to develop the land that they paid GuySuCo $4B for?”
The AFC Chairman says that following the brouhaha surrounding the $4B and the Minister of Housing, the 2011 Budget was unveiled and it was revealed that there was no money allocated for the development of the land in Diamond, vindicating the position that the money was merely for a bailout of GuySuCo.
There were several subsequent Supplementary Provisions sought in the National Assembly with no money being identified for the development of the land that had been bought by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) with the $4B, through the aegis of the Housing Minister.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Sugar Corporation, Paul Bhim, when contacted yesterday by this publication said that he could only confirm that the negotiation between GuySuCo and CHPA for the $4B has been completed.
He said that he was not in a position to say just how much of the land owned by GuySuCo was sold to CHPA to the tune of $4B.
Bhim said, too, that he was also at the time not aware of any additional payments made to the sugar corporation for the land.
He did say that at least half of the money went to capital works for GuySuCo to purchase tractors but could not elaborate any further at the time.
Following the revelations surrounding the $4B and the Minister of Housing’s involvement, the then Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud had told the Parliamentary Economic Services Committee that the money was made as an upfront payment to the entity which at the time was still in negotiations with the CHPA as to the value of the land being sold.
As such, Persaud at the time was unable to tell the Committee exactly what was the value attached to the land at Diamond which GuySuCo was disposing of to the Housing Ministry.
The company at the time was said to be seeking some $37B for its canelands in Diamond which was being retired and disposed of (some 2000 hectares) with close to half committed to housing.
The remainder of the land was scheduled to be put up for sale through a public tender process which Persaud had said would ensure transparency whilst the state company sought to acquire as much as possible for the land.