Dec 09, 2016 News
Minister of Education Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, during Day Four of the 2017 National Budget Debates yesterday, broke his silence on his involvement as a Director of the controversial Homestretch Development Incorporated
(HDI) – the company that overlooked the D’urban Park Project during its embryonic stage.
The Minister’s attempt to ‘set the record straight’ would come days after a motion that was put forward by the main Parliamentary opposition, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – to provide answers on the financial arrangements surrounding the project – was blocked in the National Assembly.
This resulted in much discourse since the project – from its inception – was plagued with controversy.
Further, Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, on November 21, last, had provided some answers to the opposition and revealed that HDI, a private company, began work on the park in November 2015 – this was the first time this information was made public.
The Minister however, did not mention that his colleague, Dr. Roopnaraine was a director of the company. This was revealed after checks were made at the local Registry.
These developments resulted in increased scrutiny with the Opposition leading the charge. Plans were even afoot to take the Infrastructure Minister before the Parliamentary Disciplinary Committee.
Minister Roopnaraine yesterday spoke of the genesis of the National Commemoration Council (NCC) which was established when the Government decided to celebrate the country’s 50th Independence – in an appropriate way.
“I was appointed to Chair the proceedings of the NCC. The opposition was invited to be a part of the commission but never attended the meetings nor did it make any contributions to the work of the commission,” the Minister said.
He explained that the decision was made to develop the D’Urban Park site when it was determined that the traditional venue for the Independence Celebrations – the National Park – would have required extensive repairs, as well as the appropriation of the rugby field, to accommodate the thousands of persons expected to participate in the events.
The D’Urban Park Development Project, he said, was authorised by Cabinet and works began in the last quarter of 2015.
The Minister continued that in January 2016, he was asked by President David Granger, to sit on the Board of Directors of HDI.
He stated that although not his direct responsibility, the development team – with no budget, was given the task of preparing the site for the 50th Anniversary.
“This meant relying on donations. It was no small task. Works were conducted in the full view of the population: trees were cut down; sand and loam delivered to the site; and bridges, drains and stands were constructed.”
In April 2016, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of HDI, Colonel (Ret’d) Larry London, who was also a member of the NCC, informed the Government that the donations and credit arrangements that it had been relying on to get the D’Urban Park Project underway had been exhausted.
Records of monies and donations handed over to MPI
“It was then decided by Cabinet, to have the Ministry of Public Infrastructure take over the responsibility of the works to bring the project to completion in time for the 50th anniversary. The CEO subsequently handed over to the Ministry (of Public Infrastructure) records of monies and in-kind donations collected. “
Dr. Roopnaraine said that he anticipates that there will be a full and proper accounting from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure. He added that it is his understanding that many of the persons whom made contributions to the Project did not want to be publicly indentified or thanked, presumably for fear of condemnation or worse, from persons who were hostile to the project.
The Minister told the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland, that he found it “personally distressing” that not only has the administration failed to acknowledge the enthusiasm and energies of those who were involved in the significant works to develop D’Urban Park, but also the greed and malice that have been attributed to their patriotic efforts.
“It is also my understanding that none of the persons involved in the management of development works up to the point of the handover to the Ministry were remunerated,” the Minister stressed.
Dr. Roopnaraine further stated that in over four decades of Political Activism; striving to achieve a better Guyana, he has “never hidden behind anybody”. This comment was in relation to the accusation made against him that he was hiding behind President’s Granger’s explanation of the project.
“In over 40 years of Political Activism, I have never engaged in any acts giving off a whiff of malfeasance, and I deeply resent any whisperings or hints in the media to that effect. I promise this august Assembly, that I will not sit by and suffer in silence if I am now accused by anyone of such acts” he concluded.
Previous reports have indicated that when the Ministry of Public Infrastructure took over the works of the project, over $400M was plugged into the project to bring it to completion. The actual cost of the project is yet to be made public by the administration.
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