One of the country’s most prominent businessmen, Dr. Yesu Persaud, believes that the time has come for a change and for the country’s Constitution to be reformed.
Persaud, who built the Demerara Distillers Limited into a powerhouse with its world renowned, award winning El Dorado rum line and soft drinks and created Demerara Bank and the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED), has been critical for some time about the Constitution which he argued gives the Government too much power without accountability.
In return, he has also been scathingly criticized by the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) for his comments.
The businessman, who has also been instrumental in establishing the Private Sector Commission (PSC), and setting up the Caribbean Containers Inc., helped to change the Government in 1992 when the PPP/C swept to victory amidst widespread calls for a new Government.
Now more than 22 years later, it seems his decision to urge for change then has taken him full circle.
The 87-year-old made it clear that while he is not endorsing any political party, he believes that a change in Government is necessary.
“I hope there is a change because change is inevitable…and if you have a change, you have to have a Government that is determined… (and has) unquestionable sincerity in what they do. Otherwise we going nowhere,” he said during an exclusive interview with this newspaper.
Dr. Persaud, who has received a national award in Guyana and several from the region and even from India for his contributions, warned the Opposition to step up their campaign to get their message out if they intend to win the elections on May 11.
Guyana is heading to early polls after President Donald Ramotar suspended Parliament in the face of a no-confidence motion against his Government late last year.
Making it clear that he is no politician and even from the days of The Guyanese Action for Reform and Democracy (GUARD), Persaud said he has no such ambition. GUARD had been vocal in the lead-up of the 1992 elections, drawing large crowds at meetings in the city.
“I never endorsed anyone, even during GUARD… All we wanted was a change…We ourselves could not make changes. We were never politicians.”
The businessman, who has also been a vocal human rights advocate, noted that elections create an atmosphere where people expect to better off than before.
Issues like salaries and education all play a big role in allowing voters to make up their minds in these elections.
Among some of the biggest tasks of a new Government will be tackling corruption. Dr. Persaud believed that mechanisms will have to be put into to stamp it out.
Acknowledging that corruption exists in other countries, the businessman made comparisons to other jurisdictions like the Arab states where tough actions, even beheadings, are taken against thieves.
A “ruthless” stance has to be taken here too.
The issue of corruption has been major one for consecutive PPP/C administrations. However, Government has yet to take a tough stance.
Guyana could do well to look towards neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago where female Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has sacked more than a dozen ministers in recent years.
Dr. Persaud was also convinced that businesses are operating on an uneven playing field.
He would be referring, of course, to complaints by businesses of a few operations which have been given granted generous tax breaks, among other unfair benefits.
With regard to the Constitution, Dr. Persaud explained that he had been advocating for its change for years now. He had even approached former President Cheddi Jagan to scrap it and start the reformation process.
He believes that Guyana can pattern its laws (the Constitution) after that of India which has rigid systems in place.
The coming elections have been described as a tough for the incumbent PPP/C because of the dynamics involved. Not only have accusations of corruption been rife against Government officials, but angry rice farmers and gold miners and the swing votes from the youth votes are likely to be the major catalyst.
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