IS UNCLE DONALD UP TO THE TASK?
Uncle Donald has an imposing physical stature that equates him to a heavyweight. But if he fails to take a grip on the affairs of the nation, he may end up being referred to as a political lightweight.
If there is any issue in which Uncle Donald can prove that he is a prized political fighter it has to be the many accusations, allegations and imputations that are making the headlines each day about corruption.
The president cannot simply allow these matters to be settled in the court of public opinion, and for two main reasons. He is expected firstly as president to settle these controversies with alacrity. Secondly, if he allows these matters to be resolved in the court of public opinion, the verdict of the people may not be in his favour because people look up to him as the leader of the country and expect that he will take decisions on these matters promptly and in a fitting manner.
When Uncle Donald was elected as president there were many who felt that because of his honesty, his integrity, his decency and his common touch, that he was the best man for the job. There are still many persons who hold out great hope for him, because they know that it is not in his nature to encourage or condone wrongdoing. But his failure to act decisively on the many issues that are in the public domain is beginning to take the gloss off his presidency and even raise serious doubts about whether he is up to the task of leading Guyana.
His compatriots within the PPP are beginning to worry also and are speaking out. This development may have to do with their own disappointment with the manner in which things are proceeding under Uncle Donald’s presidency.
One of the leaders of the PPP has in fact touched on a sensitive issue on which the public expects the president to take action and this is the issue of corruption.
While former Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, has publicly said that corruption is pervasive in Guyana, he has not come out with any specific charges against anyone. Nonetheless, the very fact that a leader of the PPP could have been so moved to make such a statement shows the degree of concern within the PPP camp about the many controversies over certain government contracts and agreements.
In recent days, this newspaper has been reporting on a matter concerning the procurement of medicines for the public health. The reports are serious, very serious and are leading to public indignation about the practices of the government.
Yet in the face of all these revelations, the president has so far failed to say anything on these matters. The former president has said something; the Chinese ambassador has made some comments also, but not a peep is heard from Uncle Donald.
The government may choose to ignore what the former Speaker of the National Assembly said. They may even wish to say that these are the words of a private citizen and ignore them. But the citizens of Guyana are not ignoring those statements.
The leadership of the PPP can delude itself about how easy they feel it is going to be about regaining a majority in the National Assembly. They may not have realized it, but with each passing day they are becoming more estranged from the people.
If the party ever needed a wake-up call as to their growing lack of popularity it was at the Enmore Martyrs commemorative event last Saturday when the turnout was poor and where even under the tent where invitees were seated there were many rows of empty seats.
The people are no longer going to listen to sermons. They want action and foremost they want action on corruption and wrongdoing in public office. They also want the government to do things the proper way. If there is an allegation made, they expect the government to initiate mechanisms to address the wrongdoing, so that the matter can be brought to a conclusion.
In recent days there have been accusations and counter accusations in the newspapers about the award of a contract by the government for the supply of medicines. Just prior to this, there were reports about the record of the Chinese contractor selected to carry out extension works at the country’s main airport.
The former president of Guyana, under who the airport contract was signed, has called for a review. The government is yet to announce a complete review of the entire process leading to the signing of the contract.
There have also been revealing details provided by this newspaper about the award of a billion-dollar contract for medicines in the health sector. The company which won the award has even gone as far as calling for the Auditor General to undertake a value-for-money audit of the contract. Yet the government is yet to announce any review.
Instead, the intelligence of the people is insulted by the most indefensible excuse offered as to why there are such glaring variations between the cost at which certain items are being procured under that contract, and the amount for which these same items can be had for in the open market.
The explanation is that the government buys the medicines as a package. If this is not a most shameless insult to the intelligence of the Guyanese people, then what is?
And in the midst of all of this the people are asking: Where is Uncle Donald and what is he going to do about these matters?