For all his Soviet-brand vindictive, autocratic and clandestine measures in Guyana, President Bharrat Jagdeo’s most remarkable achievement may well be getting the main parliamentary Opposition Leader, PPP MPs and a group of Freedom House leaders to latch on to his twisted concept of governance for the last decade. The Opposition Leader and PPP MPs were supposed to be the people, paid by taxpayers, to hold the President accountable so he won’t get any ‘bright ideas’ and engage in the excesses he has, but they obviously failed the people of Guyana. The PPP leaders, by their silence, were also enablers of this travesty.
After the death of Desmond Hoyte, the new Opposition Leader went to the President and asked for government financing of the Opposition Leader’s office. He knew he would never ever lead the PNC to victory against the PPP at any poll, and so this request had to be seen as him retiring into the position of Opposition Leader.
The two then handed off their negotiations to their respective representatives – Dr. Roger Luncheon for the President and Mr. Lance Carberry for the Opposition leader. Once the details were hammered out, the government began quietly financing the Opposition leader’s office, and this went on for five years before the deal was made legal in Parliament.
During that five-year period, the Opposition Leader and his party went missing in action as the government ramped up its acts of corruption, autocracy, lawlessness and vindictiveness.
Had the Opposition Leader become too vocal in his calls for an end to the regime’s shenanigans, he could have lost his government-financed benefits, seen at the time as a courtesy of the government, because they were not yet legislated.
There then emerged a growing perception among some observers that the Opposition Leader was actually on the ‘payroll’ of the Jagdeo regime, because in other law-abiding democracies, truly independent opposition leaders would have taken the President and his government to task a long time ago. The Amalia Falls scandal, for example, would never have seen the light of day!
So, from the President’s perspective, getting the once venomous and violent PNC to go MIA while the government ran amok was a remarkable achievement, and this was not lost on the PPP, as a political entity, which the PNC that once roared like lions become meek like lambs.
This alone caused the President’s political stock to rise in the party, and he began to methodically establish himself in the government as his own man, separating the government from the party, relying on his own initiatives, and working on winning the loyalty of party leaders via a series of orchestrated moves that allowed for rewarding such loyalty.
Before long, he was among the top three vote getters at party elections. Thus he was able to record another remarkable achievement.
President Jagdeo will go down in Guyana’s political history as the only other President (Forbes Burnham being the other) to change Guyana’s politics for the worse, while scoring political points overseas. Under the Jagdeo presidency, the government became innovatively corrupt by taking seemingly beneficial government projects and deals and making them beneficial to a select few. The President also has to be the only Caribbean head of state or government to have built two multi-million dollar mansions while serving two consecutive terms of office. And his association with certain people revealed him for who he really is.
His climate change crusade was just as bizarre as his talk about private-public partnerships, which would require government to put up money for projects that would have eventually benefited a select few.
Such ideas and issues almost always seem to have an element of benefit at the outset, but soon morphed into questionable matters for the people, some of whom have a peculiar fondness for self-serving leaders.
Example, as much as Burnham’s policies and practices reduced Guyana to underdeveloped status, he was and still is revered by many people, and it makes you wonder if President Jagdeo actually studied Burnham, as he set out to be his own man.
After working with the Jagans on anti-colonial battles, Burnham decided to split from the PPP to launch the PNC. And yes, he did become his own man. When Mrs. Jagan once urged President Jagdeo to restore state ads to Stabroek News, he publicly dismissed her as just another citizen, signaling that he was splitting from under her mentorship and, having already taken over the government, he would later work to take over the party. President Jagdeo was essentially self-made after becoming President.
However, there was also the down side to his ego-driven political agenda. As a methodically manipulative micromanager, he betrays a deep sense of insecurity, and feels compelled to do and say outrageous things to feel that sense of security and worth. Unfortunately, it was the government that became his political laboratory and the people his guinea pigs as he experimented with his personal and political agenda, which were simply to become President and benefit personally from it.
And having become a political fixture in a short time, he is now fighting one of many realities about life in politics: time to leave the stage. His close out acts and speeches are the equivalent of ‘scent marks’ that jungle animals leave on tree trunks and boulders or rocks to demarcate their territory so other animals passing through would know. He seriously wants to make a comeback, but can he? We’ll see!
Throughout human history, politicians like President Jagdeo have emerged, taking advantage of a combination of circumstances to achieve their seemingly improbable personal and political goals. In President Jagdeo’s case, his political sun rose just as the political sun was setting on the Jagans. And he not only took advantage of the timing of circumstances; he flagrantly abused the opportunities they provided!
While the presidency allowed his mind to achieve his personal and political goals, it also changed the politics in Guyana from talk about rigged elections to talk about raided treasury and raped resources. He didn’t just rival Burnham; he outdid him!
Thanks to an acquiescent Parliament made up of a docile PNC and loyal PPP MPs. Surely, he changed Guyana’s politics for the worse!
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