Last Updated on Friday, 21 August 2020, 6:49 by Denis Chabrol
Police on Thursday night turned up at the Tucville, Georgetown home of People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) executive member Christopher Jones to conduct a raid for several pieces of barbershop equipment worth more than GYD$4 million that were funded by a government project.
Up to about 8:30 PM, police from the Major Crimes Unit were outside Jones’ residence where party supporters thronged in solidarity with the former Director of Sport.
He told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103,1 FM/ Demerara Waves Online News that the law enforcement agents said they were there for “asset recovery”- barber chairs and air condition units but he refused to let them inside on the grounds that they needed a search warrant.
Mr. Jones slammed the police action, saying that that was all part of a witch-hunt by the 18-day old People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-led administration. “This is political vindictiveness and nothing else but set out to embarass me and I am pretty certain it is going to happen to quite a few other persons. It is wicked political vindictiveness,” he said.
He said a proposal was approved and the items procured under the then Ministry of Social Protection’s Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) programme. “I have no idea that I have State assets in my possession,” Mr. Jones said.
He explained that the items were stored away until the recent political storm over the outcome of the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections as over before construction of the barber shop commenced.
In audit documents released by the Minister of Public Affairs Kwame McCoy, GYD$$4.084 million was paid to Dominion Enterprise and GYD$$900,999 to Gafsons Industries were paid in June , 2019. The audit document states that “a physical inspection of the assets purchased revealed that items valuing $4.084M were still not put into use, since these items were stored in a room at the residence of the beneficiary Mr. Christopher Jones.” The items are 18 Apollo professional barber chairs worth GYD$2,556,000 and one condensing unit 208/230 voltage air handler single piece electric kit valued GYD$1,528,000.
Further, the audit states that details of a letter from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Protection dated 22 May 2019, states that the items were to be procured for the beneficiary who ‘operates’ a barber shop.
The document, however, states that at the time of the physical verification it was discovered that the beneficiary does not operate a barber shop, since construction of the said barber shop has not yet commenced.
Mr. Jones insisted that all of the procedures were followed and there was nothing irregular about the transaction. The former Sport Director has since clarified that he acquired the items in question through the Ministry of Social Protection’s Sustainable Livelihood entrepreneurial Development (SLED) Programme via a bid process which was approved through the Region Four democratic office and the items were supplied to him by the supplier who won the bid to supply. He asserted nothing illegal was done since all documentation is available.
Attorney-at-Law Darren Wade said the police refused to speak with acting Chief Justice Brassington Reynolds via WhatsApp to hear their side. Mr. Wade said constitutional relief would be sought from the High Court on Friday.
Speaking with reporters outside Mr. Jones’ residence, PNCR Executive Member Aubrey Norton vowed that the PPP would not be allowed to behave in the same manner as they had done during their 1992 to 2015 administration. Mr. Norton also urged police not to execute unlawful instructions. “The Guyana Police Force must know that they are expected to uphold the law, not violate the law by going and search people while protecting criminals,” he said.
Referring to the police killing of people during that PPP administration, Mr. Norton vowed that “we will bring out our supporters and fight them; they will kill no more of us.” PNCR Chairman Volda Lawrence was also on the scene.
A PNCR supporter, who was at the scene, said there was a power outage in the area of Jones’ residence all afternoon.