Jan 01, 2012 News
The name Christopher Ram has arguably evolved into a household name for many in Guyana. There can
be no doubt that the name has featured in many of the high profile happenings in Guyana throughout 2011. While the person himself can be deemed controversial, the controversy that surrounded him from January to December 2011 brought about a positiveness that many will not dispute.
It was not that he was anti-administration but Ram brought dynamism to the issues that he sought to raise either through his personal activism or via the newspapers columns and television programmes.
His background in accounts and finance, coupled with his relatively newly acquired legal prowess, placed him in a unique position to fearlessly highlight some of the shortcomings of the administration that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Unfortunately for Ram, while his sojourns into the exposure of financial and economic irregularities were of much benefit to the nation as a whole, it incurred the wrath of those who benefitted from the skullduggery that were perpetrated on this nation.
Christopher Ram is a founding member of one of Guyana’s leading accounting firms, Ram and Mc Rae, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. He subsequently embarked on a career in law, which is seeing him playing a leading role as an attorney for one of the defendants in the famous libel case brought by Former President Bharat Jagdeo against the Kaieteur News and its columnist Freddie Kissoon.
Ram also challenged the Jagdeo administration’s handling of the Lotto Funds, which has been a source of much controversy over the years, coupled with the questions he raised in relation to the Former Presidents’ benefits.
His raising of awareness on the latter issue has been a major campaign grouse during the recently held general elections.
That’s not all–Ram, apart from being a part-time lecturer at the University of Guyana in the area of Company Law and Corporate Finance, somehow finds the time to volunteer his services as a legal aid assistant and has been doing a lot of work on the Essequibo Coast.
This mountain of a man somehow manages at the same time to serve as President of the Guyana Lawn Tennis Association, and was instrumental in establishing terms limits for the head of the organization.
The organization is the first sporting body in Guyana to have term limits.
Over the years Guyanese newspaper readers as well as those on the internet have grown accustomed to and look forward to one of the longest running financial columns which is written by Ram and carried in the business pages of the Stabroek News.
These columns were a source of much information with the in depth analysis and pointed facts that those who were exposed shivered while reading them.
So too is the impact of Ram’s ‘Plain Talk’, a television programme aired every Sunday afternoon in which he highlights issues of interest to the public.
His style of questioning on the programme and the quality of his guests are the envy of many who are officially trained in media techniques.
So hard hitting and topical are his methods that his attempt at another controversial television programme with Ramon Gaskin, ‘Keeping them Honest’ angered the administration so much that it was forced off the airwaves.
Closer to his main area of expertise, Ram was instrumental in the establishment of a Guyana arm of Transparency International- Transparency Institute Guyana Inc.-with the aim of zeroing on the high incidence of corruption that was exposed in Guyana in 2011.
The idea to establish the local transparency institute was born after Ram, in company with Bernard Crawford, attended a regional meeting of Transparency International in Trinidad and Tobago.
In this area, Ram dealt with several issues, namely the Berbice River Bridge, the Amaila Falls and the Amaila Falls Road Project.
Ram was one of the attorneys who challenged the award of the Amaila Falls contract by NICIL to Fip Motilall.
He wrote extensively on the licence given to Motilall and the 10 extensions given to him in apparent breach of the Hydroelectricity Act.
Ram’s pet concern throughout 2011 was the devaluation of the Audit Office by the placing at the head of the agency, a person who he argued was not professionally qualified for the job, the wife of the Minister of Finance.
This fearless Guyanese also exposed the inadequacy of the Public Accounts Committee over its failure to treat more decisively with the audit office.
And as if that was not enough, Ram in 2011, chaired the Commission for the Defence of Human Rights and Free and Fair Elections.
This was an ad hoc Commission that was established following the suspension of the licence of CNS Channel 6 by the then President Bharrat Jagdeo.
The Commission was mainly concerned with the television station remaining on the air and the opposition political parties having access to the state media in the run up to November 28, 2011 General Elections. The Commission was also against the use of state resources for campaigning purposes.
Its impact was certainly felt with the Commonwealth Observer Group recently concluding that there was no level playing field at the last elections.
To raise issues in general may be easy, but to raise the issues that embarrass an administration is another story.
Ram has been doing just that and despite experiencing the wrath of the previous administration he remains steadfast in his conviction that his work can and has been making a positive difference in Guyana.
It is for this reason that he is considered as one of our personalities of 2011.
Ian Chang—he made changes
There are many people who earn national recognition for their actions and their deeds, either by thought or by word. Sometimes some people would argue that they are simply doing their job and anything that may attract national attention is merely incidental.
One such person is Chief Justice Ian Chang, who has handed down some landmark decisions in the past months. At a time when there is the view that the judiciary is politicized, Chief Justice Chang has been ruling against the government when the situation warrants.
Within recent months the United States has been looking at Guyana with gimlet eyes because of the suspicion that Guyana was a drug transshipment point for cocaine and other illegal drugs destined for the North American market. It had had already managed to arrest Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan for drug smuggling to that country.
Some time back, the then US Attorney General Janet Reno had issued sealed warrants for a number of Guyanese suspected of being major exporters of drugs to the United States. There was one man who understood the law and recognized that the United States was using its might as a world power to bully small states like Guyana.
It was not long before the United States set its sights on another Guyanese, Barry Dataram, an American citizen who chose to live in Guyana. Acting on a foreign request, the local police arrested Dataram for extradition. This matter saw the prosecution pulling out all the stops to have the man extradited.
Trinidad and some other countries in the region were already doing bowing to every request by the United States. Justice Chang noticed this and observed that every extradition from Guyana was in breach of the treaty that permitted the movement of the people from the exporting country to the United States.
He found that the treaty did not allow for the exportation of a deported person to a third country and that the United States reserved the right to deport a person to a third country. It did this in the case of Manuel Noriega who was further extradited to France.
Because of Justice Chang, no other Guyanese is likely to be extradited from the land of his birth to the United States.
An even more significant ruling rested with the allocation of radio licences to people other than to the government. For more than four decades the government was the sole owner and operator of a radio station. People applying for a radio licence were ignored. It soon became clear that no private person would be allowed to own a radio licence.
Justice Chang changed this when he ruled that the people had the right to express themselves and to receive information from sources of their choice.
Before he demitted office, President Bharrat Jagdeo liberalized the radio licences in keeping with Justice Chang’s ruling. After more than four decades, private radio is heading back to Guyana and this is due to one man.
There have been other landmark decisions, not least among them the granting of bail to people accused of murder. Until he did, people languished in jail regardless of the length of time they remained incarcerated.
Justice Chang is aware that the magistrate’s court does not grant bail but he could use the discretion of the High Court. Since then, his ruling has prompted other judges to grant bail to murder who have spent an inordinately long time awaiting a trial that seems not to be forthcoming.
He is indeed a Person of the Year.
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