UNCLE DONALD STEPS OUT!
Sometimes the most important things in the news go unnoticed. Over the past few days, there have been two reports in the news that have hardly elicited comment – and in Guyana the slightest thing can cause a storm in a teacup.
Yet, these two reports which appeared in the Kaieteur News may be the most positive developments in the country since Uncle Donald took office last November.
The first report quotes Guyana’s Ambassador to China, David Dabydeen, as saying that the President of Guyana is fully committed to transparency and openness. He also observed that the President was not opposed to documents being released to interested and affected stakeholders to facilitate greater scrutiny.
These are sound bites for sore ears.
But it gets better. In another report published yesterday in the same Kaieteur News, the President himself is quoted as saying that if what the newspaper is reporting about the rented generators at the GPL is true, then this is something to be concerned about.
It has taken some time in coming, but now we are seeing the Uncle Donald that everyone knows about and expects. Now we are seeing him stepping out and saying the things that people have come to associate with him.
One of those things referred to by the Guyanese Ambassador to China is that secrecy breeds suspicion. It sure does. There have been a great many secret deals signed under the Bharrat Jagdeo administration and there was an unwillingness of that administration to level with the public about some controversial deals.
Uncle Donald no doubt believes that some of these deals are good for Guyana, but as he has also shown recently, he is prepared to throw away those deals that he sees as rotten and intervene in those that are not living up to expectations.
Earlier this year, the government took the bold decision – bold because it exposes the administration to lawsuits – to cancel the contract for the construction of the Amaila Falls Access Road which was granted to ‘Fip’ Motilall.
It is hard to recall any time in the past, where a major contract was recalled because of non-performance. There have been many underperforming contractors in the history of this country, going way back to independence, but one can hardly recall a major contract being pulled.
Uncle Donald, however, had had enough of the slippages on the Amaila Falls Access Road contract and decided that the arrangement like a bad marriage had to end.
Uncle Donald ended that arrangement, much unlike what happened in the past, when extensions were granted for works which should have been completed.
Another sign that Uncle Donald may be moving slowly but surely in the right direction, was the briefing held for the opposition parties on the hydropower contract. This was a political masterstroke on the part of the President.
Given the hard time that the opposition was giving him in parliament, Uncle Donald could have simply buried them with paperwork or refused to answer their questions. One opposition leader himself conceded that the government was not obligated to answer questions put to them in parliament.
The president, however, opted to hold a confidential briefing, and the opposition parties were quite pleased by what they heard, so much so that the hydropower deal seems to have fallen off the radar of their criticisms.
Uncle Donald has therefore been doing his thing without a great deal of fuss, and those who know him will appreciate that this is the man’s style. He is not a fussy person; he does not crave attention. He is a simple, decent man.
It would have been lovely, though, if instead of hearing certain things through his ambassador to China, if those things could have been announced up front by the President.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and it is therefore left to be seen what Uncle Donald is going to do about those hefty rentals being paid by GPL. He certainly should ask for an explanation and then act after being advised about the matter.
He is going to receive a great deal of support in Guyana if he does the right thing, and those who know him will testify that he is a man who likes to do the right thing, even if it means upsetting some of the former political bigwigs who may be sitting a little uneasy now that Uncle Donald has signaled his intentions.