The existence of numerous presidential candidates is a welcome development in Guyana. The constitution was amended to prohibit incumbent President Jagdeo from serving more than two terms. As a result of the constitutional requirement, it is expected that President Jagdeo would demit office in 2011.
His replacement may be Donald Ramotar; the General Secretary of the PPP. The mere fact that he is not the only candidate to replace the President is a welcome development. Competition within the PPP and political parties in general, well enhance democracy within the political system. Another candidate is Mr. Ralph Ramkarran who will have to demonstrate why he is a better candidate for the presidency. .
The election season is here and therefore both candidates would have to demonstrate what their accomplishments have been and what their vision for Guyana would be. To a large extent, the candidates have already started to do so. Mr. Ramotar is on record of calling for the establishment of a Public Procurement Commission to address the issue of corruption in the awarding of contracts. He has not explained why he took so long to express his concerns in this area.
The reality of the mater is that the National Assembly has dragged its feet on the establishment of this Commission. There has been no sustained effort on the part of the Government to meet the constitutional requirement. The will to replace some of the oversight functions of the Tender Board with the Commission does not exist. A motion to establish the Commission was delayed in Parliament for several years, reflecting the unwillingness of the Administration to meet these legal obligations.
The failure to establish the constitutionally mandated and autonomous Public Procurement Commission, which would have provided the needed transparency and fairness for Public Procurement activities, has enabled the continuation of the misappropriation of billions of taxpayers and donor agencies’ funds into the pockets of cronies and corrupt contractors.
Mr. Ramotar presides over the PPP/Civic, where most of the contractors are aligned with. He has failed to deliver the goods in this area that is of vital importance to the Guyanese public. He has not addressed the issue of what he did to correct these deficiencies for the past decade. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran, has also failed to address any of theses issues. But these transgressions occurred during his watch as Speaker.
However, Mr. Ramkarran has a new found interest. He wants to eliminate extreme poverty. He seems to have finally discovered that poverty is a problem in Guyana. But where is his programme for eliminating extreme poverty. He can start by having officials within the Administration obeying the established laws of Guyana. For instance, the National Commercial and Investments Limited (NICIL) have been in receipt of $4.5 billion dollars from the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company. Has NICIL registered with the Company Act in Guyana and has it filed its tax returns?
The failure to comply with the law by prominent officials within the Administration is indicative of a serious flaw within our legal system.
The failure to enforce the laws of our land by these officials will not result in a system that is based on democracy and the rule of law. Both Mr. Ramkarran and Mr. Ramotar can ensure that the Administration complies with its legal mandates. Have they made any concerted efforts to do so? Regardless of their role, the mere fact that they are vying for the post as President would enhance the competitiveness within the political system and strengthen democracy within the PPP/Civic, and Guyana as a whole.
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