Army Misused in Buxton-Mcpherson
Interdiction of Col. McPherson—No Threat

No 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 Singh.

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 national consequences."

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," he replied.

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. Lewis operated."

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.


Colonel 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.]



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