– double standards, witch-hunting also cited As Independence celebrations got underway at D’Urban Park on Thursday evening, it was evident the parliamentary Opposition had boycotted the event. But from reports reaching Guyana Times, the boycott was for good reason.According to a source close to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the decision to boycott the celebration was not taken lightly; but rather one reason for the decision to boycott was the controversy and lack of transparency surrounding the money used on the location.Sources indicate the Opposition boycotted the event due to the controversies swirling around the Government“Apart from the money spent in the past, the Government spent close to another $100 million to have the Park prepared again for these activities. And it seems to be a cash cow for the Government,” the source stated.The source revealed that the Party was also concerned that despite the national nature of the event, the parliamentary Opposition was at no point included in the planning of the celebrations.Other concerns of the parliamentary Opposition are the determined use of agencies such as the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to persecute members of the Party. This comes despite SOCU turning a blind eye to corruption and criminal acts the party had highlighted being done by officials of the current Administration.During a recent press conference, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had deplored the fact that the Guyana Police Force continuously demonstrated a double standard in its dealing with PPP/Civic officials as against members of the ruling coalition.“We have had cases where we have called in the Police on several occasions… the Police have two standards now, standards for going after PPP people and standards for APNU.”Jagdeo had called for charges to be laid against Director of the Government Information Agency (GINA) Beverly Alert, for (alleged) misappropriation of public monies, following the glaring admissions made in the Public Accounts Committee recently.Alert appeared before the parliamentary body on Monday last and essentially told members that the GINA staff had been paid bonuses in 2015 following approval from the Finance Secretary.But under cross examination, it was found that a Contingency Fund advance made in 2016 was in fact used to make the payments in 2015. Subsequently, she essentially threw in the towel and said “the auditors probably have to come in back… maybe we have to scrutinise the books again. I can only go to what was provided to me by the staff of GINA.”Jagdeo had also used the occasion to draw reference to staunch coalition supporter, Eric Phillips, a senior official at the State Assets Recovery Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency.The PPP/C General Secretary pointed to statements Phillips would have made, interpreted to mean death threats against the Opposition Leader and senior members of the PPP/C.He reminded media operatives that the PPP/C lodged an official complaint with the Guyana Police Force and “until today we have seen no action.”The PPP/C General Secretary and Opposition Leader said the entire State apparatus would have been brought to bear, had it been the party allegedly committing the act. He also reminded the media of the case of Ruel Johnson.Johnson, the cultural political advisor to the Government, had been condemned for inciting the torching of the Sanata Complex which houses among other businesses, the media grouping TVG, Guyana Times and RGI Radio.According to the source, the Party is still disturbed that while several of its members have either been passed through the courts or are being investigated, the Government seems intent on creating a façade that all is well between the two parties.In retrospect, the source said, the PPP was also cognisant of instances when the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change, then the Opposition, would have boycotted national events the former Government had planned.UnnecessaryThe subject of D’Urban Park has been a contentious one between the Opposition and the Government side, since the structure was built last year at a cost of over $1 billion. The Government has constantly had to defend the logic of building the structure, when the National Stadium, a state-of-the-art structure that already hosted national events, is available.In the run up to the 51st Independence anniversary celebrations, there had been reports that the event would be hosted at Stabroek Square. That ultimately never happened, as Government switched their focus back to D’Urban Park.Due to its lack of utility, the structure stands empty and unused for most of the year. During a press conference, Minister of State Joseph Harmon while responding to assertions that the structure has become a white elephant had defended its existence.“Since the D’Urban Park was built, I can say to you at least once per month or more, that various organisations in this country have been using the Park for various activities. That every afternoon, you can go there, you just walk there and take your cameras, you see people are exercising, they are using the place, you see children playing, so it is not as is portrayed in your article that this is a white elephant,” Harmon had been quoted as saying.Cash cowMeanwhile, as it relates to the overall expenditure and cash donations, questions are still swirling about how much the project really cost taxpayers. This is especially pertinent as the construction costs covered by private entities amounted to no more than 10 per cent of the overall cost of the project.D’Urban Park was initially built under the supervision of Homestretch Development Inc, a private company Government says was solely established for this purpose. Audit Firm Ram and McRae has since debunked assertions that the company was ever a special purposes company. Later, delays saw the project being taken over by the Public Infrastructure Ministry.Under pressure from the Opposition, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson told the House that a total of $27.7 million was received in the form of donations from private individuals and entities, while another $37 million came about ‘in kind’.The Minister provided a list of donors to the House. Among the donors as listed by Minister Patterson are three anonymous contributors, Palm Court, TEOCO, STP Investments Inc, Mohamed’s Cambio and RUSAL, among others.He listed among those entities that have given donations in kind as BK International, Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited, BaiShanLin Forest Developers Inc, Demerara Sand and Aggregates, Barama, Buxton Gas Station, Splashmins, and NABI Construction, among others.Opposition parliamentarian, Juan Edghill, while querying the expenditure was adamant during the consideration that with donations being less than 10 per cent of the $1 billion price tag, the project could not be one that could be considered as done privately.He was adamant that it is reasonable to conclude that Homestretch Development Inc was just a company that was used to engage private contractors of which ultimately all of the money to be expended was to be paid by taxpayers.The Opposition has already called on the Auditor General of Guyana to conduct an immediate forensic audit into all revenues, expenditure and donations received. In addition, there have been calls for a commission of inquiry.The PPP has on previous occasions expressed outrage over the coalition Government seeking an additional $500 million to be plugged into the controversial D’Urban Park Project. The fact that hundreds of millions in public funds had to be used contradicts all suggestions that the project was privately funded.
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