When the PNC and AFC were in the opposition, the newspapers were filled with their angry demands for the government to release information on any deal, any transaction that involved state resources or anything connected with the state because the state represents the interest of the nation.
Let us trace the Pradoville 2 scandal since the PNC and AFC came to power. An audit revealed that the sales to PPP government officials and their friends were indecently below real estate value. The audit found that the government even used public funds to do infrastructural undertakings before the owners build.
It was announced publicly that one recipient, Priya Manickchand, built and sold to a businessman named David Narine for a million American dollars.
The government moved in two directions. It charged former PPP Housing Minister Irfaan Ali with fraudulently underselling the Pradoille 2 scheme. Then it initiated civil proceedings in court against the recipients of the plots. Now it has gone in a third direction. Two owners have settled with the state paying between them $40million.
Eric Phillips of SARA told the media that in the legal settlement, there was a nondisclosure clause so the settlers cannot be named.
I am not a lawyer but in my opinion this is the most sickening manifestation of asininity I have seen in decades. SARA named these Pradoville 2 owners even going so far to tell the nation who Priya Manickchand sold her building to. Yet in agreeing to pay the prevailing price for the land, SARA chose to sign a nondisclosure clause with persons who were unfairly given assets that belonged to the state.
Even in private matters involving no public assets, settlements are made public. For example I broke up your bicycle. The police charged me with damage to property. I told the magistrate I will buy a new cycle. The plaintiff refused to continue with the trial. The entire nation knows I have reached an agreement.
By what logic SARA agreed to keep an arrangement secret with some citizens who were sold property that belonged to the people of Guyana and the sale of which was not backed by legal legitimacy?
The nation must know how this arrangement was accepted. It is commonsense to assume the proposal of nondisclosure was made by the lawyers for the two owners. Did SARA’s lawyers resist this approach initially and then accepted it? I spoke to the Deputy Head of SARA, Aubrey Retmeyer. He told me the policy at SARA is only the head, Professor Clive Thomas, is allowed to speak to the press.
I contacted Eric Phillips to ask him about the non-disclosure which he had made public in relation to two recipients. Philips said they made reimbursement for a combined total $40 million. Philips added that the two persons could not be named because of the non-disclosure agreement with them.
Philips said he cannot speak to me because the policy at SARA is only Clive Thomas will engage the media. I did ask him then how come he spoke to another media house and disclosed the settlement of the two recipients. His answer was that I should speak to Thomas.
I contacted Clive Thomas. First he said he did not know that Philips spoke to the press and I should send him the interview. I named the media house and described what Philips told them then suggested that he should ask Phillips. But Thomas insisted that I send him the transcript because he is hearing it from me and not Philips. I don’t agree. Thomas should approach Phillips.
Thomas said there is no non-disclosure agreement. I taped him and the transcript can be played for anyone interested. I am left confused at what Thomas told me. He indicated that there is no non-disclosure contract with any Pradoville 2 recipient who settled with SARA. But he conceded that two have paid up, as Phillips had announced. When I requested the names, he said he cannot give that out.
I replied that there is a non-disclosure clause after all. He said there cannot be a nondisclosure agreement when SARA has to submit a report to Parliament in which the names of the settlers will be in the submission.
I then said that if the names will eventually be made public then why he cannot identify the two persons who have paid up. He said the law under which SARA was set up was advised by the United Nations and SARA is following that law, therefore SARA cannot name individuals.
Forgive my lack of intelligence but I still don’t know if there is a nondisclosure covenant with those who illegally got lands that belonged to the people of Guyana.
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