Reference is being made to Kaieteur News’ article “Kingston Wharf purchased by BK days before election” (2nd April 2020).
Some years ago, I was the trade union representative on the Privatisation Board- the only black person- when the property in question was put up by the Bharrat Jagdeo government for sale. That property which is located in Water Street was the former Guyana Rice Board (GRB) wharf which was burnt down through questionable circumstance during the life of the PPP government.
Among the bids for that property was one from BK International. Winston Brassington, Executive Director of NICIL, recommended at the meeting the property would be best given to a Company he was proposing which was registered at Phagoo Store in Regent Street. The proposed company had no track record with any business. I objected!
I objected because I looked at the proposal of that company, BK International and others, and found BK’s proposal to be superior, satisfying the many requirements demanded by the PPP/C government. In as much as Brassington represented the company registered at Phagoo, the CAGI representative and Consumer representative on the Board supported my justification for BK to be given the property. The entire Board, appointed by the PPP/C government, agreed we will recommend to Cabinet the property will go to BK.
Let me make it very clear, I never knew Brian Tiwari at the time, but met him subsequently at the funeral of Mr. Christiani Lewis, the original owner of Waterchris.
What is instructive is that the PPP government took time in making sure the final and legal transfer of this and some other properties were never brought to finality. The reason behind this behaviour, is one of control over the intended Leasee/owner. So if for any reason said person /persons or company wants to approach the bank or third party to be involved in any business it will require permission from the government to do so. As such, if the person to whom the property is given should take a position that conflicts with the government the owner will never be able to get the support or comfort to do any business with a bank or third party because the government can exercise leverage to keep the party in check.
The property has been in the possession of Brian Tiwari and for all intended purposes was intended for transfer. The coalition government has done what the PPP initiated but failed to complete for whatever reason. This is a final and legal transfer to the owner. The same principle that applied for the GRB wharf was applied for the BIDCO house which was also transferred to Capt. Gerry Gouveia, currently Chairman of the Private Sector Commission. Said property situated in Duke Street Kingston is now converted into a business called Duke Lodge.
This is not a simple case of disposal of state asset for if it is so then both governments would be held responsible and have questionable intent in starting this deal and/or completing it. In my opinion the completion of the transfer of the GRB wharf is just that, a completion of one deal that started under a government and which another government has taken the responsibility to execute. The timing unfortunately like everything in Guyana right now, given the climate, is an opportunity for political advantage. If in the presence of the worst pandemic in years COVID-19 response and support is used for political ends what else must we in Guyana expect.