Harmon clears air on media attacks

first_imgBy Devina SamarooFollowing days of anticipation, Minister of State Joseph Harmon finally delivered on his promise and issued three statements, providing detailed explanations on the recent controversies he has been involved in.Minister of State Joseph HarmonHarmon explained that he refrained from making a public response to those earlier media reports since actions were linked to Guyana’s diplomatic relations and its pursuit of foreign investment that would ultimately be beneficial to Guyanese.He said now that Cabinet has been fully briefed on the matter, it is now fitting to address the public on the recent developments.GRA interventionHarmon has been widely criticised for his intervention in an on-going Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) investigation when he ordered a halt to the seizure of vehicles from Chinese logging company BaiShanLin.In light of his actions, Harmon was accused of having corrupt dealings with the company.But in defending his actions, Minister Harmon explained that on March 17, representation was made to him by an official of the embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Guyana on an “urgent matter” affecting one of their national’s company operations in Guyana – BaiShanLin.The GRA had visited the premises of BaiShanLin in furtherance of a tax demand of G$1.5 billion and the personnel were intent on seizing the movable assets of the company.Harmon explained that the Chinese official stated that the principals of the company were not in Guyana and in consequence, requested a stay of execution of the GRA’s action for 14 days pending the return of those principals, at which time they would go into the GRA to settle their indebtedness.Harmon said the Chinese official also gave the assurance that none of the assets of the company would be removed during that grace period.The Minister said upon considering the importance of the Guyana/Chine relations as well as the urgency of the matter, he contacted the GRA and requested the facility.The request was granted and at the expiration of the 14 days, the GRA proceeded with its work, Harmon said.Travel to China,photo with BaiShanLinMoving on to the issue of his “real” reason to travel to China and the controversial photograph of himself and BaiShanLin officials on a private jet, Harmon maintained that his visit to China was strictly on official Government business.Government had insisted that the State Minister’s trip to China was in relation to the outstanding payment of US$5 million by a Chinese company for the sale of Guyana’s 20 per cent stake in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company.In his statement, Harmon explained that the Ambassador of China to Guyana – who was in country at that time – made arrangements for him to meet officials of four companies that had expressed interest in making significant investments in Guyana.According to Harmon, the companies were located in Beijing, Shanghai, Hebei and Heilong Jiang Provinces; distances far part from each other.As a result, Harmon posited that the Ambassador made arrangements for these companies to provide transportation, both air and land, for him to travel to the respective head offices.On March 27, an arrangement was made to visit one of the companies called Long Jiang Forest Industries Group located in Heilong Jiang Province.Long Jiang Forest Industries Group is a State-owned company that had acquired 55 per cent of the shares in BaiShanLin and is intended to fully take over the company in 2016, Harmon stated.Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, Harmon pointed out that two officials from the State-owned company, along with two officials from BaiShanLin, accompanied him on the aircraft to attend the meeting.Harmon also provided details of that meeting, noting that the company’s Vice Director Wong Dong Xu gave the assurance that officials will be in Guyana in May to complete due diligence for the takeover and to satisfy and expand on obligations of BaiShanLin to Guyana.Harmon also disclosed that he used the opportunity to convey the concerns and expectations of the Guyana Government with respect to foreign investment generally and with respect to BaiShanLin in particular.Moreover, Harmon said he wishes to make no comment on the motivations of the publication of a lone photograph without seeking to investigate or report on its context.Tiwari’s appointmentLastly, Harmon explained that following the 2015 General and Regional Elections, many individuals indicated their interest in assisting the Government in fulfilling its campaign promises without having any interest in formal employment or remuneration.He explained that it was agreed among senior party members that such persons would be appointed as “Honorary Ministerial Advisors” and that a certificate entitled “Instruments of Appointment…Ministerial Advisor” would be issued, as with the case of businessman Brian Tiwari.Harmon disclosed that during the period October 6, 2015 to February 8, 2016, 34 persons were identified on the recommendation of the Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, the People’s National Congress (PNC) General Secretary Oscar Clarke and the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) General Secretary Joseph Harmon, and the instruments were accordingly issued.However, the other 33 who are supporters of APNU/AFC are yet to be named.Harmon said he was subsequently advised by President David Granger, who was not aware of all the appointees, that he was not in agreement with having Tiwari as an “Honorary Advisor” and the appointment was therefore rescinded. The Minister of State said he agreed with the President’s decision and his rationale for rescinding the appointment.It is unclear whether or not the President will rescind the appointments of the other 33. …says 34 political advisers appointed by APNU/AFC – jet was organised by State-owned Chinese company – GRA intervention was to preserve Guyana/China relationslast_img read more