Harmon hides behind GINA on BK Tiwari issue

Last Updated on Friday, 1 April 2016, 17:54 by Denis Chabrol

Despite widespread criticism about the now revoked appointment of prominent Guyanese businessman, Brian “BK” Tiwari as a ministerial business adviser, Minister of State Joseph Harmon broke his promise to hold a news conference on Friday to deal with the issue.

Instead, Harmon spoke with the state-owned Government Information Agency (GINA) which issued a release and made no reference of the Chairman of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Larry London and Tiwari being on the visit to China  with Harmon at the same time.

Harmon Thursday morning promised  faithfully that he would have fully briefed the media on the issue on Friday (April 1, 2016).

The GINA-issued statement, however, sought to reiterate what President David Granger has already stated- that Harmon and in-house Legal Counsel at the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Natalie Seepersaud were on the official trip to China.

Granger has already said that he personally rescinded Tiwari’s appointment and that Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin never requested assistance.  Under Harmon’s hand and seal, Tiwari was appointed ministerial adviser on business on January 29, 2016.

Tiwari was a major financier of the APNU+AFC general election campaign and after the coalition victory he assisted in a major clean-up exercise, rehabilitation of the Independence Arch on Brickdam and the development of D’Urban Park.

However, Tiwari and his company BK International have long been accused by the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) of shoddy infrastructural work and benefiting heavily from contracts under the previous People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration.

GINA reported that at the same time Harmon and Seepersaud were in China, there was another delegation from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) negotiating the acquisition of  shipping container scanners from NUTECH.

Separately, but during the same period, a team from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) comprised of Head Project Coordination, Mr. Fitzroy Corlette and Supervisor, Mr. David Hermonstine, along with the representative of the Chinese companies in Guyana, Mr. Clinton Williams, visited China to participate in negotiations with NUTECH, a Chinese security scanning equipment supplier, for the acquisition of container and baggage scanners.

NUTECH is recognised as one of the world’s top providers of security scanning equipment. The company produces scanners that are used to effectively prevent the trafficking of contraband such as explosives, narcotics and radioactive substances.

The acquisition of security scanners by the GRA is aimed at strengthening air, land and sea port security and to help in the fight against the trafficking of illegal drugs. The GRA team and NUTECH both expressed satisfaction on the outcome of the negotiations and the Guyana Revenue Authority is expected to issue a separate statement on this matter shortly.

The Information Agency reported that the visit by Harmon and Seepersaud  was to engage in discussions with regard to the payment of the US$5 million balance owed for the purchase of 20 percent of Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) shares by Chinese company, Datang Telecom Technology and Industry Group from NICIL in 2012.  This deal was entered into by the previous administration but only US$25 million of the agreed US$30 million was paid.

Minister Harmon reported on his return that the investigations and enquiries that were conducted by the Guyanese delegation were highly successful.  The team’s report will be submitted to the Board of Directors of NICIL for deliberations, after which, a full statement on this matter will be issued.