UPDATE: Granger tries to distance himself from U.S. lobbyist …official documents show otherwise

FILE: Caretaker President David Granger speaking with the media (MotP file photo)

Caretaker President David Granger on Friday denied that his administration hired Washington-based lobbyist firm JJ&B LLC to engage the U.S. Department of State on its behalf.

But official documents show that the Ministry of the Presidency is indeed the client of the said firm. Those documents show that Joseph Harmon, the chief spokesman of the coalition administration, is representing the client. Harmon is the Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency.

However, in a statement today, the President’s Office said that it has noted with “much concern several erroneous statements published in the media which suggest that the Government of Guyana and by extension President David Granger has hired United States lobby firm, JJ&B, LLC”.

“The Government of Guyana has not hired JJ&B, LLC and has no contractual arrangement or affiliation with the said firm,” the President’s Office added.

Bart S. Fisher, one of the lawyers hired by the APNU/AFC had worked with the Sudanese Government back in 2011 when that nation was sanctioned by the U.S. 

However, in the document filed with the U.S. Department of Justice, which was received by the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit of the United States National Security Division on March 31, 2020, the Guyana Government was named the ‘foreign principal’; the Ministry of the Presidency was listed as the agency that is being represented by the lobbyist firm; and Harmon was named as the official with whom the company engages.

The document also lists Granger as a US citizen. However, this was also denied by the President’s Office in its missive today.

Meanwhile, Harmon, who was campaign manager of the APNU/AFC Coalition, has since claimed that the retainment of the company is being funded to the tune of US$72,000 by party supporters, and not with money from the State’s coffers.

However, Jagdeo has rubbished this claim, saying that he does not believe that it is in fact coalition supporters who are funding the lobbyist firm. He also challenged Harmon to produce the evidence to prove otherwise.

“We believe that it’s taxpayers’ money that had been used to fund this activity – a party activity… In fact the company should release the source of the payment, whether it’s coming directly from Congress Place (the head office of the People’s National Congress Reform – the leading party in the APNU faction of the Coalition).

“When we paid for the Mercury firm, we paid directly from the party, so we can show the money transfer. It would be interesting for us to see the money transfer order that Harmon made from the party to this company,” Jagdeo had contended.

General Secretary of the PPP, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo speaking during a media conference

Jagdeo said that Harmon’s claim is just a deflection from concerns raised on the grounds of misappropriation of public funds by local stakeholders over the massive spending to hire the U.S. firm, when any spending during this period is supposed to be only for emergency needs and for basic operations of the country, until a new Government is sworn-in.

The 147-page document being circulated, titled ‘Dossier Guyana Elections 2020’, claims that the PPP has been trying to gain U.S. support to stage a coup against the David Granger-led Government, and that if it were to succeed, then Russia and China will be in control of the area stretching from Venezuela to Suriname.

It further alleges that Jagdeo has been working actively to undermine U.S interests, and has been seen as an ally to both current and past Venezuelan Leaders, Nicolas Maduro and the late Hugo Chavez respectively.

In response, however, the former President of Guyana rubbished these claims, calling them “ludicrous”, “utterly stupid” and “nonsensical”. He posited that in its 23 years in office, eight of which were led by him, the PPP/C has never traded the sovereignty of Guyana, and would never do so.

He said that unlike the current behaviour of the Coalition administration, his party has always subscribed to open, democratic values, including the conduct of free and fair elections.