Despite Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, saying last week that the current Board of Directors of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), headed by Professor Clive Thomas, is due to expire this month, the Deeds and Commercial Registry is showing clearly that a new board is in place.
In fact, according to filings on March 1, 2018, there were several documents including a copy of the Cabinet Decision of the new board, Notice of Change of Directors and consent forms to be directors.
According to the documents, the new board includes Colvin Heath-London as Chairman, with the directors being Komal Singh, Verna Adrian, Fritz Mc Lean, Rosh Khan, George Jervis, Arianne Mc Lean, Vishnu Panday, Annette Arjoon and two GuySuCo executives.
The filings would mean that for all intents and purposes, a new board is in place.
It would replace the previous one which in addition to Professor Thomas, would have included Louise Bouyea, John Browman, Nizam Ali, Nigel Cimberbatch and Sharon Roopchand-Edwards.
The issue of the new board has been engaging the Cabinet of Ministers, headed by President David Granger, which is reportedly grappling with deep division within the Coalition.
From reports, the Alliance For Change, the smaller to the Coalition factions, wants back GuySuCo.
However, members of the A Partnership For National Unity side are deeply unhappy over the handling of GuySuCo and are objecting for any return of Professor Thomas and former Chief Executive Officer, Errol Hanoman.
Hanoman’s contract ended in December after a stormy few weeks with angry unions and thousands of redundant workers.
Last week, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, insisted that there is only one board – and that is one headed by Professor Thomas. The life of that board would be expiring this month-end with the Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, to submit a list for the new Board, he said.
Jordan also made it clear that he is not in charge of GuySuCo, a troubled state company, which is in deep debt and cash-strapped.
In December, the shares of GuySuCo along with the four closed estates, Skeldon, Rose Hall, Enmore and Wales were all placed in the hands of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), a state-owned company that handles dividends.
NICIL’s SPU is also handling the privatization and divestment of GuySuCo.
However, there are indications that the Finance Minister was not aware of all the facts.
He said that he was travelling in recent times overseas.
The issue of GuySuCo with its myriad of problems has been troubling the Coalition Government since they won in early elections in May 2015.
At the end of December, almost $32B was plunged into the industry.
As the pressure to do something about GuySuCo piled up, the new government installed Thomas and the new board with Wales Estate the first casualty in late 2016.
However, despite the $32B, there was little that the Board could do.
In fact, production plummeted to one of the worse in decades last year- just over 137,000 tonnes.
Last year, weeks before Christmas, the bombshell was dropped…three estates- Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore were all closed.
A red-faced Administration said that it did not have the opportunity to discuss the matter at Cabinet. That is, the sending home of thousands of workers, hundreds of them would have been working decades in the industry.
In fact, Jordan last week admitted to reporters that he would have preferred the Thomas-led Board spending the $32B in fixing technical issues instead of the decision to pay off suppliers. A significant part of the monies too was used to pay wages and salaries of the more than 15,000 workers.
Last year, the Administration brought in Heath-London, an experienced financial expert, to oversee the privatization and divestment of GuySuCo.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP), now in opposition, which has built its support on sugar workers, has blamed GuySuCo and by extension the Administration for badly handling the situation.
In Berbice, with two estates closed, hundreds of workers are complaining of hardships.
The SPU, under Heath-London, has been attempting to fix the fallouts, with Enmore reopened to process canes on the ground for the Demerara Distillers Limited, which wants the molasses for its rums.
The attention has also been focused on Rose Hall where canes were being processed at nearby Albion Estate.
Between the two estates, hundreds of redundant workers have been rehired as contract workers to harvest canes and do other related activities.
The fact that the Finance Minister has said that there are two Boards as at last week, suggested a dilemma of two Boards in play.
However, with the Registry records now surfacing, it would be difficult for the Cabinet to scrap the Board without admitting it has erred badly.
It would have to send letters of revocation to the persons whose names are on the new board.
Already the Board has been doing work, with the new Chairman reportedly meeting with factory Managers and even being part of the team with the Ministry of Finance to close a $30B financing for the operations of the reduced, three-estate GuySuCo.
All of the Directors have received letters of appointment from the Finance Secretary, Hector Butts, from Ministry of Finance.
The new Board members includes a number of prominent members of society including environmentalist, Annette Arjoon and Rosh Khan.
The previous GuySuCo Board has been accused by the opposition of being “too old” and out of touch with reality.
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