Op Ed: A weekend at the Zen and the Ranches

By: Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP, Attorney-at-Law

Ministers Basil Williams, Volda Lawrence & Amna Ally pose in New York with Ann Narine who is a convicted felon and APNU+AFC financier

My attention was drawn to two fliers, advertising and inviting the public to two events, which will take place over the weekend in the United States of America, and which may be of interest to the Guyanese taxpayers. The first event is scheduled to take place on June 10th 2017, at 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Zen Lounge 117-15101 Avenue, Richmond Hill, New York. According to the flier, this event is organised by an entity known as “Bridge the Gap Intercontinental Inc.”,  in collaboration with Zen Lounge. The event is described by the flier as, “Health and Human Services Tea Forum – Meet & Greet – Connecting & Collaborating across Boarders.” The flier indicates the “keynote Speakers” to be (verbatim):

Her Excellency, First Lady Sandra Granger

Hon. Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence

Hon. Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally

Hon. Attorney General, Basil Williams.

Further, the flier contains the following curious phrase, “Suggested donations $20.

I consulted Google to find out more about “Bridge the Gap Intercontinental Inc.” The only information available is that this entity is a “Domestic Not-For-Profit Organisation.” No information is available in respect of who the shareholders are, or in what business or activities this entity is engaged. Significantly, this organization was only incorporated on the 27th June 2016.

Since the ‘keynote Speakers’ boasts their official governmental  titles and portfolios, as opposed to their political standing within the Peoples National Congress,  it is reasonable to assume that they are on official business representing the Government and people of Guyana. One can also assume, therefore, that either public monies are being spent to host the event, or at a minimum, the travel, accommodation and subsistence of these Government officials are financed from public funds. It is hoped that upon their return, these officials will inform the Guyanese people about the nature and purpose of this event; how much this trip cost them; what was the purpose of the donations; the total sum received as donations; what use will be made of the donations; and finally, what benefits will Guyanese enjoy as a consequence of this event.

The second event is scheduled to take place on Sunday, 11th June 2017, from 4:00 PM, to 7:30 PM at a private residence in Southwest Ranches, Florida (Name and Address stated on flier). This event is styled, “Cocktail Reception and Town Hall Meeting.” The invitation to this event is extended by, “Guyanese Patriots & Friends of Guyana.” “Guests Speakers” are listed as, “Hon. Amna Ally, MP, Senior Minister of Social Protection and Hon. Volda Lawerence, MP, Minister of Public Health.” Like the other flier, the following and even more curious phrase appears on this flier as well, “a minimum donation of $35 is required for admission to the event. Please make checks payable to: APNU Guyana Inc… proceeds to benefit the President’s five ‘B’s’ program in Guyana.” 

Again, the ‘Guest Speakers’ are described in their governmental nomenclature and portfolios. For clarity, I wish to point out that these two officials also hold Executive positions in the People’s National Congress (PNC) but their political appellations were not used. In the circumstances, it is safe to assume that these two persons will be on official Government business, representing the Government and the people of Guyana and that this event is either being funded by public monies or at a minimum, the travel, accommodation and subsistence of these Ministers are financed from the Treasury.

However, a few questions would immediately arise in the mind of a probing reader:

  1. Why is such an event being held at a private residence?
  1. Why cheques are to be made payable to what obviously is a political party’s bank account and not the Government of Guyana?
  1. The President’s five ‘B’s’ programme is a programme of the Government of Guyana. It has received appropriations from the National Budget and it has been part of the budget speeches of many Ministers of this Government. It is, therefore, not the President’s personal philanthropic initiative nor his personal charity. Why, then funds raised at such an event be allowed to comingle with funds of APNU Guyana Inc.?
  1. Are we now officially embracing party paramountcy, once again as a governmental doctrine?

I am sure that the questions which I have raised above will result in some very interesting answers. I hope that they advance the cause of transparency and accountability.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *