threat in interdiction of top GDF officer—Dr. Roger Luncheon
Georgetown - Secretary to the Defence Board,
Dr. Roger Luncheon, has said he does not see any instability emerging
from within the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) as a result of the
recent interdiction of its second-in-command, Colonel Godwyn McPherson.
Additionally, Luncheon said he did not see partisan considerations
playing a role in the administration of the GDF, or the discharge
of its national responsibilities as a result of the interdiction.
These reassurances came while he was responding to questions about
McPherson's interdiction due to an over-expenditure of over
(G) $250 million at the GDF. At the time, McPherson was acting
as Chief of Staff during the one-year absence of Brigadier Joe
Luncheon confirmed that the Defence Board took a decision a week
earlier to interdict Col. McPherson. However, he dismissed claims
the move may have had to do with political considerations, or
personal disagreement between Col. McPherson and Brigadier Singh.
And in response to claims by reporters of
public concerns about the possibility of instability and threats
to national security, Luncheon said he knew of "no such concerns,"
and was "confident" that Col. McPherson recognized the
position of the Deputy Chief of Staff "is an important one,
and that matters internal to the military ought not to have such
Luncheon was also asked whether the interdiction,
against the background of the vote by soldiers in the last general
elections for the opposition People's National Congress (PNC),
would not mean bad news for the People's Progressive Party/Civic
with another general election due. "Neither the army, nor
this government, have sought to make partisan considerations in
administration of the work of the GDF. The nexus does not exist,"
On the matter of claims that the affair stemmed
from personal differences between the Brigadier and the Colonel,
Luncheon said he questioned those claims. "I dismiss the
notion that personality differences could have had an impact on
what transpired in 1995, and what is happening now." Explaining
the sequence of events, he alleged that "a series of financial
irregularities" were committed last year while Col. McPherson
acted as Chief of Staff in Brigadier Singh's absence. He said
the Auditor General's office was invited and "its most preliminary
reports led to a most comprehensive investigation."
Said Luncheon: "The police were then called
in to investigate what the Auditor General considered to be matters
of a criminal nature. Further investigations led to further findings
and more similar recommendations." As well, "The Defence
Board has, in general, complied with the recommendations of the
Attorney General," he said. Luncheon added that the investigative
team was made up of representatives from the police, the Financial
and Audit Sub-committee of the Defence Board, the Office of the
President, the Attorney General's Chambers, and other skilled
agencies not related to the police.
"The relevant agencies have been informed and redress is
being sought. And we expect action to be taken," he noted.
Said Luncheon: "The concerns increased as the investigations
deepened, and the latest submission of findings presented the
Defence Board with an opportunity to exercise some of its discretion
regarding how Col. McPherson and (GDF Accounting Officer) Col.
He said the GDF had officially declared it had only overspent
$25 million in 1995, but the subsequent investigations revealed
"manifest financial irregularities and malpractices, as well
as gross inaccuracies." The evidence uncovered showed more
was overspent, unaccounted for, and spent without authorization,
he added. Asked why Col. McPherson was interdicted instead of
the Accounting Officer, Luncheon pointed out that "while
the Accounting Officer has responsibility within the financial
regulations, the head of the army has overall responsibility."
Col. McPherson has been turning down requests
by reporters for interviews, saying he has written to President
Dr. Cheddi Jagan on the matter. He told Indo Caribbean World
that if he did not "get justice from the President,"
then he would talk to the press about the charges. At the time
of the announcement of the interdiction, Dr. Jagan, who as Commander-in-Chief
is Chairman of the Defence Board, was in Atlanta, Georgia. He
left for Canada soon after he returned. He is expected to consider
the matter as one of extreme urgency.
McPherson due before Courts Tomorrow
Georgetown - The criminal charge brought against the interdicted
Number Two man in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Colonel Godwin
McPherson, is due to come up again in court on November 7.
He and several other members of the Army and
a civilian appeared before Chief Magistrate, K. Juman-Yassin last
month on several charges, including stealing and falsifying accounts.
McPherson was in charge of the Army last year
while Chief of Staff, Brigadier Joe Singh, was in the United Kingdom
on one year's study leave. Following Singh's return and the launching
of a probe into suspected irregularities with Army funds, McPherson
was relieved of his duties by the Defence Board in June this year.
This was pending the outcome of investigations
by a select Police unit into alleged overspending of about (G)
$280 million by the Army last year. The interdiction followed
findings by the Auditor General's Department of alleged financial
irregularities and malpractices during last year, officials said.
Those charged are McPherson; Army Accounting Officer, Colonel
Allan John Lewis; Captains Colin April and Walter Morris; Sergeant
Junior Cornette; Corporal Terry Thomas; and businessman Eric Anderson.
McPherson, who faces a lone charge, was put on
$50,000 bail, while Lewis, on a joint indictment, is on $25,000
bail. McPherson is accused of stealing seven awning windows, valued
at $178,750, and eight sash windows, valued at $145,000, belonging
to the Army, between July 19 and August 4, 1995. He is represented
by Senior Counsel, Rex McKay.
Lewis, who has retained Senior Counsel Peter
Britton and his daughter Dela, faces a joint charge with April
of conspiracy to commit a misdemeanour.
In that offence the Police are alleging that
the accused between May 31, 1994, and October 1995, conspired
with each other, and other persons to falsify 17 paysheets belonging
to the GDF to show that 11 civilian employees of the Army's Credit
Union were embodied reservists of the People's Militia, and were
entitled to salaries from April, 1994, to September, 1995.
April faces two other joint charges - larceny
by a clerk or servant and falsification of accounts - with Terry
Thomas and Junior Cornette. The first accusation states that in
November, 1995, being clerks or servants of the GDF, they stole
$167,697 belonging to the Army.
The other accuses the three that in October,
1995, being officers, clerks, and servants of the GDF of falsifying
the October 1995 paysheet, purporting to show that salaries totalling
$3,403,396.05 were payable to 413 members of the People's Militia
for the month of October 1995, when in fact salaries totalling
$3,341,699.05 were payable to only 395 members of the said unit
for the month of October.
Another charge against April - larceny by clerk
or servant - alleges that between May 31, 1994, and October 19,
1995, being employed as a clerk or servant of the GDF, he stole
$612,017.85 in cash belonging to the GDF.
In one of the three charges against Morris, falsification
of accounts, the police are alleging that on December 20, 1995,
at Garden of Eden, East Bank Demerara, being a clerk or servant
of the GDF, with intent to defraud, he made, or concurred in making
a false entry in a goods receipt book, purporting to show that
three broiler pluckers and three broiler chillers were received
by the GDF at the Army's Agriculture Corps.
Another charge of simple larceny which he shares
with businessman Anderson alleges that in April, 1995, at Garden
of Eden, they stole 3,000 layer chickens valued at $282,800, the
property of the GDF.
In an allegation of procuring valuable security
to be delivered under false pretence, Morris is accused of the
following: that between December 20, 1995 and January 10, 1996,
with intent to defraud he procure a bank draft for (US) $6,729
to be delivered to Hendry Farm Limited Company by falsely pretending
that three broiler pluckers and three broiler chillers were received
by the GDF and entered into the books of account of the GDF at
the Agriculture Corps, Garden of Eden.
Juman Yassin granted the prosecution up to tomorrow
to report on whether the charge against McPherson will be indictable
or summary. The others will be called again on November 21.
On Singh's return from study leave this year,
the Defence Board called in the Auditor General's department to
mount a thorough investigation into the Army's 1995 expenditure.
Following his interdiction, McPherson requested
a meeting with President, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, in a bid for review
of the interdiction from duty under the Defence Act. The appeal
was not allowed.
[Editor's Note: Courtesy of Indo Caribbean World, Toronto,
Canada, November 6, 1996.]