by Gary Eleazar
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Tuesday March 14, 2017 accused the administration of deliberately inflating the cost of the house-lots at Goedverwagting-Spareendaam, East Coast Demerara, (ECD) called ‘Pradoville 2.’
He produced correspondences to corroborate his argument that the removal of the mast for the National Communication Network (NCN) in fact predates the development of the seaside palatial community and should not be considered as part of the Pradoville 2 developmental costs.
He was at the time engaging reporters at his part’s Freedom House Headquarters and said the investigators into ‘Pradoville 2’ are in fact attaching the cost of the removal of the NCN tower as part of the expenditure on developing the now exclusive community but that the two bore no connection.
The former President also dismissed signals by his former Minister, Robert Persaud, as unreflective of a PPP Position.
Persaud after being questioned by ranks of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), had taken to social media and suggested a willingness to pay the difference should the house-lots be found to be sold to him at below market value.
Jagdeo however, dismissed Persaud’s action as conceding that the house-lots were in fact sold below market value.
He instead said, “Robert Persaud can do whatever Robert Persaud wishes.”
Jagdeo in defending the actions of the then PPP Government and its handling of the ‘Pradoville 11’ development, pointed to a April 2004 correspondence between Anthony Mekdeci, the then Manager of the Ogle Airport Inc. and Rawle Edinboro, the then Town & Country Planning Officer at the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA).
That correspondence spoke to the need for the removal of the NCN Tower since, “it penetrates the Obstacle Clearance Limits of the New Runway Development, and it is a hazard to aviation.”
Another correspondence produced by Jagdeo from June, 2005 between Mekdeci and C. Ramphul, the then Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) also speaks to the need to remove the mast tower.
One such correspondences dated 2007 and produced by Jagdeo was from Mekdeci to the then NCN Chief Executive Office, Mohamed ‘Fuzzy’ Sattar, which speaks to the need to relocate the tower or reduce its height.
Another correspondence documents the recommendations of a Consultant, that it was inadvisable to reduce the height of the tower and as such relocating the piece of infrastructure was the only available option. “All of these correspondences long predated, long predated the development of Pradoville 11…yet every time, including from the audits, when the government speaks they convey the impression that the sole purpose off removing of the mast was for the establishment of the housing scheme,” the former President said.
Jagdeo, was adamant the administration—through operatives such as the former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran and SOCU—has since lumped the removal of the tower by NCN together with the ‘Pradoville 11’ development, in order to suggest that monies used to develop the community was a large sum. “If people see the development cost as huge then they would say hold on a minute…” Jagdeo said.
Jagdeo and members of the ousted PPP administration are accused of using state funds to develop the sprawling seaside community and sold the house lots at below market value to selected party members and acolytes.
Questioned on how exactly the administration determine the value to be paid for the lands Jagdeo said this was the same line of questioning that caused him to invoke presidential immunity and that the answers will in fact form part of the legal defense in the matter. “This is precisely what they (SOCU) asked and that will be part of the defence…so I said I am not going to answer those questions.”
Jagdeo told media operatives that invoking his immunity he informed the ranks that the information will be supplied as part of the defence since “I have no doubt they will, they have to pursue this to the end and those questions are going to be part of the defence…I have no doubt this witch-hunt will persist.”
Jagdeo dismissed the former Auditor General as a political hack whose findings should be dismissed. “They can bring Goolsarran as the witness in the Court…Goolsarran can go as witness for the Government,” Jagdeo said.
Many of the house lots there were sold for GYD$1.5 million and potable water and a road were provided to the area.