In a previous letter that Kaieteur News refused to publish, I suggested that this newspaper be considered for at least a regional award for its constant reportage and coverage of the ongoing corrupt practices and deeply troubling double standards in the Jagdeo Administration.
Today, I want to go one step farther and suggest that Guyanese of reputable professional standing at home – Mr. Chris Ram readily comes to mind – should get involved in helping to stop this disease before it spreads and becomes terminal to the detriment of not just the government, but the entire country.
It has been reported that Guyana has been repeatedly exposed by Heritage Foundation and ranks high on the Transparency International’s list of corrupt countries, and that Norway – like many other rich, donor nations that Guyana is trying to get hundreds of millions of dollars from for LCDS – is duly concerned about the prevalence of corruption in the government and Guyana in general.
In the Norway-Guyana arrangement, thankfully, a foreign agency will be responsible for managing the funds from Norway, but it is so unfortunate that this step could not be extended to the entire government, because even though the Auditor-General (AG) reports many instances of questionable practices, there is no agency that can enforce changes that the AG’s office suggests.
In fact, government’s glaring corrupt practices put paid to the boast of many PPP and government supporters that the Auditor-General’s reports resumed under the PPP since 1992, as opposed to being visibly absent under the PNC regime for the bulk of 28 years. What is the point of having the Auditor-General’s report that exposes financial abuses in the government, but nothing is being done to correct the abuses?
Anyway, I believe that, given there is a constitutional clause that protects the President against civil lawsuits and criminal indictments, and given that the President can easily assume the responsibilities of any senior government functionary by injecting himself into that role and even become the primary spokesman, it becomes necessary for a method to be identified to hold the President accountable. To this end, the only method that readily comes to mind is international pressure.
He may think he is escaping accountability with flying colours with his honorary doctorate from his Soviet alma mater or his Champion of the Earth award from the UNEP or the expressions of support in the local media and Internet blogs from PPP and government apologists, but his wings can still get clipped if enough Guyanese would take a stand and demand international pressure be brought to bear on him to do something about systemic corruption.
I am aware he has a dislike for the United States, even though the charismatic President Barack Obama heads the US Government, but I am sure that if the US can be persuaded to apply visa sanctions against President Jagdeo and his top officials and their relatives, it can send a powerful message throughout the international diplomatic community, thus exposing the President and his government to potential investors and donors as not being trustworthy to do business with.
In 2004, the US President signed Presidential Proclamation 7750, virtually extending Section 212 (f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (codified at 8 U.S.C – 1182, suspending entry of any alien if such alien could be detrimental to the interests of the United States). The 2004 Proclamation, known as the ‘Anti-Kleptocracy Initiative’, is aimed at combating international crime and terrorism and ensuring the stability of democratic institutions and US business interests abroad.
It also actually bars entry into the US of any family members or dependents of corrupt foreign officials, if the family members or dependents have benefited in some way from the bribe. And in November 2009, the NY Times reported that the US Secretary of State in 2007 had used the Proclamation ‘dozens’ of times to bar corrupt foreign officials from the United States.
In October 2009, the US Ambassador to Kenya, citing Proclamation 7750 as the basis for his decision, reportedly denied a visa to Kenya’s attorney-general for being ‘obstructive in the fight against corruption’. Before that, in January 2008, the visa of a former Tanzanian official was revoked when he was dismissed from his position with the Bank of Tanzania, pending an investigation for possible corruption charges. And the US Ambassador to Serbia published the same Proclamation 7750 in a November 2006 press release, stating that his embassy ‘will continue to apply stringently the provisions’ of the Proclamation.
During the almost 11-year presidency of Bharrat Jagdeo, we have seen his government devolved into a cesspool of corruption with no genuine steps on the horizon to stamp out the practice, and since the US deems corruption in government as a threat to the stability of democratic institutions in countries where it has ‘interests’, it needs to know from Guyanese professionals about the threat that corruption in Guyana’s government has had on our emerging democracy’s stability and independence of democratic institutions.
Transparency International and Heritage Foundation are not anti-Guyanese organisations simply because they expose the Jagdeo Administration, and Guyanese professionals will not be anti-Guyanese if they join in exposing the government. If the US starts canceling or threatening to cancel visas of Guyanese government officials and their relatives, and Canada and Britain follow, I guarantee anyone we will see some hastily put together changes to deal with corruption.
Do I want to see visas revoked? No! Too many lives depend on foreign visas. What I want is for the government to stop treating corruption like a passing fresh cold! Stop spending people’s money as if it belongs to the spenders and with no accountability and a lot of serious questions.
Again, Editor, I want to publicly thank Kaieteur News for boldly reporting the countless instances of questionable practices involving public funds within the Jagdeo Administration, and the current focus on the Synergy Holdings-Fip Motilall deal to construct a road leading to the site of the Amalia Falls Hydro Electric Power project is truly deserving of international scrutiny and not just local reportage, because this deal should tell potential foreign investors the type of government they are dealing with and why some Guyanese keep crying racial discrimination when government keeps doling out public funds to Guyanese of one ethnic background for projects that end up raising red flags.
Queens, New York
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