Silence is not golden for the government
The attacks against the government are unending and apparently unceasing. It would seem that the last days of President Bharrat Jagdeo sparked these attacks. Indeed he pursued the development of the country with a vengeance, undertaking a number of projects with the assistance of the Chinese Government.
I still remember President Desmond Hoyte being restrained from undertaking any project in the run-up to the elections. US President Jimmy Carter had been involved in those 1992 elections. The then opposition PPP had mounted a vigorous campaign against the PNC Government, accusing it of rigging and creating a situation akin to apartheid where a minority was ruling a majority.
Hoyte also had plans for Guyana. He had just divested the Guyana Telecommunications Corporation (now Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company). He had brought Omai Gold Mines, Barama Company Limited, and he had secured loans to reconstruct the Soesdyke/Linden Highway and the Essequibo road project.
However, the then political opposition was accusing his government of corruption, and it lobbied successfully for a halt to all financing. It was certain that it would win the elections. The international community did halt funding until after the elections.
President Cheddi Jagan came in and he reviewed all the contracts that Hoyte had negotiated. He found that they were all above board and it took every ounce of media pressure to get him to acknowledge that there was nothing corrupt about the deals.
There was a bit of a flurry of noise when the government found out that GT&T had funded a trip to South Africa by the now former President Desmond Hoyte. One of the most strident voices to protest the allocation of a petty sum of money was Moses Nagamootoo.
Fast forward to today. The Chinese have come and they have repeatedly funded trips for Government officials and there has not been a squeak. Similarly, if they were to fund visits by any member of the opposition there will be a lot of noise. Such is the nature of the local politics. There seems to be a marked dislike for each other.
Anyhow, the issue at hand is the undertaking of projects in the run-up to elections. Bharrat Jagdeo entered into many contracts and attracted the criticisms that now dominate the political landscape. I remember talking to him about the pre-election contracts, and he simply said that national development cannot be stalled for elections.
It would have been interesting to see what the new government would have done had the PPP lost the elections. Surely with the brouhaha there might have been a review of the contracts. And although the incumbent remains, there are calls for these contracts to be reviewed. The argument is that they are too high priced; that somewhere along the way there have been kickbacks.
I am not one to make accusations readily. I try to investigate, and although information is often difficult to come by in this electronic age, one can get a reasonable idea of what a project should cost. There has not been too much investigation by the media, with the result that accusations are made on whims and fancies.
Under pressure, the Donald Ramotar administration released details of some of the contracts with a view to easing the criticisms, but the pressure did not lessen. The international contractors eventually got involved and they answered as many questions as they could. For the first time the locals were able to actually threaten the projects.
Of interest is that as soon as the answers are provided the rhetoric ceases. There is no more hostility, at least not yet, against the Amaila Falls hydro project. And pretty soon the noise surrounding the expanded Cheddi Jagan International Airport will subside.
The big question is would the government not take the nation into its confidence? If only the government can talk to the people, then a lot of the tension that exists now will not be there. Governments are known to inform their people of their plans; there is transparency because governments know that people are fickle, and it would not take much to get them riled.
There is another thing at this stage and that is the focus on corruption. From the look of things, the PPP government is emerging as the most corrupt. It all started with the contractors. A simple look found that they were shortchanging the nation; they were doing slipshod work and collecting top dollars.
When this came to the fore the government did nothing. I was not aware that any contractor was blacklisted. This is what prompted the spotlight on the government itself.
Today, there is Donald Ramotar. He is not being given a chance because he has stepped into Jagdeo’s shadow. Had I been in his shoes I would have sacked some of his public relations people. They are the ones who should be providing answers to the queries. Instead they pen vituperative assaults against the critics of the government.
I may still live to see the day when the government does get a proper public relations unit going and perhaps, only then will the strident cries that we hear today die. A limited public relations response did set the records straight in the case of the wife of Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh.