– Nandlall dismisses charges as frivolous, maliciousBy Ramona LuthiSix persons were on Thursday afternoon summoned by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) for questioning in relation to the Guyana Rice Development Board’s (GRDB’s) operations during the years 2011 to 2015. They were later charged and bailed for fraudulent omission of records in regard to the lucrative PetroCaribe Fund.The former GRDB officials making their way to SOCU headquarters, accompanied by their lawyers on ThursdayThe six are former GRDB General Manager Jagnarine Singh; former Deputy GRDB General Manager Rickey Ramraj; Badrie Persaud of the Guyana Oil Company; former Deputy Permanent Secretary (Finance) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Prema Roopnarine; PPP Parliamentarian Nigel Dharamlall; and head of the Rice Producers Association, Dharamkumar Seeraj.Guyana Times was told that each of these persons had received a telephone call informing them that they were being charged, and instructing that they report to the Special Organised Crime Unit’s (SOCU’s) Headquarters. They were not immediately told of their offence, but after several hours of interrogation by SOCU officials, they were then transported to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to have their fingerprints taken, before being taken to the Brickdam Police Station to be charged and placed on station bail.They are all expected to be arraigned in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts today, Friday, May 20 2017.While none of them was allowed a chance to interact with the media, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, representing some of them, explained that the charges “concerned the failure to make certain entries in relation to monies received through a foreign-funded project.”He described the situation as “harassment”, and advised the affected persons to sue the state for compensation, since, he said, he believes the matter is frivolous and he is certain that no conviction would be made therefrom.“Public monies have to be better spent! This (that) you’re seeing here is costing the state millions of dollars. This will have to go to court; it will take months in the court and it will never yield a conviction; and a properly advised person charged in these circumstances would be advised to sue the state for compensation, because this is nothing short of malicious prosecution,” Nandlall told media operatives.The former AG also lamented that there was no evidence to support claims that the six persons had intended to commit fraud by the omission of records.“There is no evidence that this money was missing; that the money was not spent for the purpose for which it was disbursed. In fact, the money was spent for the purpose for which it was disbursed,” he explained.Nandlall criticised SOCU for levelling charges against these six persons in regard to the omission of “a ceremonial entry into the record.” He said the accountants should rather have been charged.“Absolute nonsense! This is absolute harassment! Why is it that [they’re] putting people through this ordeal: damaging their character, putting their family and them through anguish and through suffering just because (they) have the power to do so?” he questioned.During the early part of 2017, it had been reported that false and misleading statements were being sent to the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela by the former General Manager of the GRDB in order to obtain monies from the PetroCaribe Fund. The fund was established almost a decade ago, when Venezuela introduced an oil sale arrangement wherein Guyana and a number of CARICOM and Latin America countries took oil at concessionary rates, paid a percentage in advance and protracted payment of the balance over a 20-year period. The PetroCaribe Fund was supposed to hold millions of US dollars.Inconsistencies in this Fund was just one of several financial irregularities highlighted by Nigel Hinds Financial Services in the forensic audit it had done for the period 2011 to 2015.Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman had noted that, based on the audit report, millions of dollars had passed through the accounting unit of the GRDB. He highlighted that the “glaring” financial irregularities uncovered by the auditors had no “no traceable signs that (they) were ever approved”.
https://ondemand.npr.org/anon.npr-mp3/npr/me/2019/08/20190826_me_in_rural_utah_p… In Rural Utah, Preventing Suicide Means Meeting Gun Owners… by NPR News Erik Neumann 8.26.19 7:32am A gun show might not be the first place you would expect to talk about suicide prevention — especially in a place like rural northeast Utah, where firearms are deeply embedded in the local culture.But one Friday at the Vernal Gun & Knife Show, four women stood behind a folding table for the Northeastern Counseling Center with exactly that in mind.Amid a maze of tables displaying brightly varnished rifle stocks, shotguns and the occasional AR-15 assault-style rifle, they waited, ready to talk with show attendees.”Lethal access to lethal means makes a difference. Suicide attempts by any other means are less lethal,” says one of the women, Robin Hatch, a prevention coordinator with Northeastern Counseling for nearly 23 years.Utah has one of the highest rates of death by suicide in the U.S. And 85% of firearm deaths in the state are suicides. According to Utah’s health department, suicide rates can vary widely depending on where you are. For example, the suicide rate in northeast Utah is 58% higher than the rest of the state.Suicide by gun is a particular problem: The rate in rural areas is double that in urban areas, according to state officials.A major factor is the easy access to firearms in Utah — and the grim fact that suicide attempts involving guns have a higher mortality rate than by other means.This was the first time Hatch and her colleagues at Northeastern Counseling were doing outreach at a gun show.As the auditorium filled with firearm sellers and hunters, the counselors stacked their folding tables with neat piles of free cable locks that thread into a gun to prevent rounds from being loaded, and water-resistant gun socks screen-printed on the outside with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.The idea behind distributing both devices is to slow a person down during a moment of crisis. “Anything that we can do to get people off track a little bit, thinking something different,” Hatch explains. “We believe that will help make a difference in our suicide rates.”Unpredictable employment adds stressThe northeast corner of Utah is home to oil and gas fields, cattle ranches and the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.Health experts say factors contributing to the high suicide rates in the area include limited access to mental health services in rural communities and the unpredictability of the ranching and oil and gas industries. The boom-bust cycles, along with physical and mental stress, take a toll on workers.”Injuries and accidents, keeping your job, having a job tomorrow. It’s so up and down,” says Val Middleton, a former oil and gas safety instructor at Uintah Basin Technical College in Vernal. “The guys don’t eat right typically. No exercise, hard work, long hours, no sleep. That’s what adds up. The divorce rate is high, really high. The family life is low.”Add high gun ownership and the risks are increased.Dee Cairoli is a pastor at Roosevelt Christian Assembly in a neighboring town. He also works part time as an NRA concealed-carry handgun instructor. When hosting classes, Cairoli explains how gun owners can intervene if another gun owner shows signs of a mental health crisis.”I’ve done it a couple of times as a pastor where I’ve gone to somebody’s house and said, ‘Look, maybe you need to listen to me for a minute. I know what I’m talking about. I promise I’ll keep it in my [gun] safe, but let me have your gun.’ “Cairoli speaks with authority. When he was 15, his father killed himself with a gun.”It was very tragic, but I never hated the gun. I never blamed the gun. I knew that it was just his desperate moment and that he had just chosen that,” Cairoli says.He believes that personal tragedy, along with the credibility he brings as a gun user and local pastor, allows people in crisis to trust him.Not Just A Rural IssueHow to talk about suicide with guns isn’t just an issue in rural parts of Utah. It’s a topic that state Rep. Steve Eliason of Sandy, a suburban city near Salt Lake, also tackles. Eliason has sponsored legislation focused on firearms, suicide prevention and mental health services. It is personal for him, too.”I’ve lost three extended family members to suicide. All firearm suicides. Young men,” Eliason says.This year, he worked on bills to fund firearm safety and suicide prevention programs, supply gun locks, create new mental health treatment programs and expand crisis response in rural Utah.Eliason describes these issues as nonpartisan, but with Utah’s proud gun culture, he’s also careful with his approach. He describes advice he got from a politically liberal friend in public health about how to bring together opposing perspectives about firearms.”Obviously, there’s kind of two schools of thought on firearms,” he says. “Those two schools of thought, if they were circles, they would overlap into a small oval — that oval is the culture of safety. And she says, ‘I would recommend that you dwell within that oval.’ That’s what I’ve tried to do.”That perspective led to the Utah legislature appropriating money to fund a study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in consultation with the Utah Shooting Sports Council. That study spurred discussions about the problem of firearms and suicide and formed the basis of at least one of Eliason’s 2019 bills, to expand access to gun locks.Like Eliason’s work at the state policy level, Hatch’s suicide prevention work in her community depends on relationships and trust.Hatch’s table at the gun show was less busy than others. But the women gave out hundreds of gun locks and gun socks over the course of the day. And attendees said having them there was a fitting way to bring up the subject of suicide and firearms.”You need to know your community, and you need to address it in a way that your community will accept it,” Hatch says.This story comes from NPR’s reporting partnership with KUER and Kaiser Health News. Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.