Apr 10, 2016 News
“Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It’s self-defence. It’s patriotism.” That is the belief of serving American Vice- President, Joe Biden.
All believers of Biden’s mantra are keen on finding out exactly what was the nature of Minister of State, Joseph Harmon’s recent trip to China.
When questions were raised initially, Harmon’s press secretary, Malika Ramsey, sent out a statement that sought to set the record straight about the controversial trip.
However, the information contained in that press statement runs counter to the evidence presented in a photograph that was subsequently leaked to this newspaper.
The statement indicated that Harmon and an In-House Legal Counsel at National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL), Ms. Natalia Seepersaud, visited China on state business.
The purpose of the visit 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.
The statement said that separately, but during the same period, a team from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) comprising Head Project Coordinator, Fitzroy Corlette, and Supervisor, David Hermonstine, along with the representative of the Chinese companies in Guyana, Clinton Williams, visited China to participate in negotiations with NUTECH, a Chinese security scanning equipment supplier, for the acquisition of container and baggage scanners.
Nowhere in the statement was anything said about the officials of a controversial logging company, BaiShanLin, being part of that trip.
However, a photograph shows Joseph Harmon, with BaiShanLin’s Managing Director, Chu Hongbo and family, and with the NICIL representative.
The picture appears to be taken on a private jet.
This leaves one to question whether the state did sponsor this jet for BaiShanLin, his family, and Harmon to fly to China or was this favour from BaiShanLin to Harmon.
Harmon has maintained a worrying silence as the media reported on a series of his recent shady actions. The Minister had promised to hold a press conference but never did.
Sources within Cabinet told Kaieteur News that Harmon did not give any information to Cabinet in any way about a meeting with BaiShanLin during that time.
As far as Cabinet knows, Harmon and the NICIL representative were supposed to be the only two persons on that “official” trip.
Recent reports in the press gave an insight into Harmon’s relationship with BaiShanLin, a company he once referred to as a spirogyra—a nasty bacterium that gobbles up everything in its path.
Harmon halted an official operation involving BaiShanLin.
The operation was being executed by GRA in collaboration with officials from the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU).
GRA was going to seize two of BaiShanLin’s vehicles due to the fact that the Chinese company failed to pay the required duties within the legally stipulated timeframe.
But before the GRA and SOCU officials could carry out the seizures, they received a call from Harmon who instructed that the vehicles must not be removed, that the ranks should leave the company alone, and walk away from the premises.
Eventually the vehicles were seized. But the government is still to say how it intends to address Harmon’s actions which some are describing as rogue behaviour.
Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, is still to update the media of an investigation he had promised to launch into the matter.
Jordan had said, “I am going to investigate the veracity of this allegation.” But efforts to contact him subsequently proved futile.
Anti-corruption advocates are outraged. They all expressed disappointment in Harmon and said Guyana cannot be made to suffer a repeat of what was had under the rule of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C).
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