The blanket transfer of state lands to a small in-group of former President Jagdeo, was not only inequitable but partially ethnically motivated, political activist and former AFC Executive Member Gerhard Ramsaroop has said.
Ramsaroop was at the time responding to a letter penned by political activist David Hinds in the Kaieteur News on March 28, under the headline “The incredible transfer of Guyana resources to a tiny cabal”. Hinds had stated that the wholesale handover of the state assets to an elite group of mostly Indo-Guyanese was courting ethnic discontent.
“The PPP government I believe squandered its chance to have genuine healing in Guyana,” Ramsaroop said, highlighting that all the charges the party levelled against the former PNC government pre-1992 elections are now being laid at the feet.”
He said it was the PPP who fought against the abuse of power, repression, and mismanagement of state resources in 1980s only to turn around and do the same.
He opined that Indo-Guyanese should be enraged that lands, which belong to their ancestors, themselves and their children, should be handed over to a select group of “entitles”. He questioned why a single mother should work hard to send her child to University and then when he is finished and joins the public sector, he is pulled down because a member of the elite or a family member of the cabal gets the job because he/she is entitled.
The transfer of state assets, Ramsaroop said, goes beyond the transfer of state wealth to those who get “cushy jobs” in government. He lauded the government’s work for releasing 16 forensic audit reports that has pinpointed wide scale mishandling of state assets and abuse of power for personal gain.
However, he does not agree with other anti-corruption activists that the government was dragging their feet on acting on the cases of corruption which were underlined in the reports.
He said that bringing people to be accountable is not an easy task, thus the nation should develop patience and wait for the government to stamp down on the corruption outlined the reports. He said further that he believed in the integrity of President Granger and his promise to have no tolerance for corruption.
Moreover, the prosecution of these elite involved in corruption is solely not the chief measure to end corruption, he said, adding that if there is a weak system then the corruption will continue through others who will be rising up.
It is critical for the nation to fix its system while bringing its offender to prosecution, he added.
“We need to target the system.”
But, Ramsaroop maintains that he is enraged, embarrassed and hurt by the wholesale giveaway of state lands to a faction of Indo-Guyanese. He stated that the beneficiaries of these lands were not the poorer class in society but friends of the former government.
“Even if I was qualified or they had asked me, given my conscious concern for the poor and the ethnically oppressed I would not have accepted it. Throughout my life I have always remained on the side of the oppressed.
“I was with PPP when they were fighting for democracy. I was with the WPA and the AFC…every time on the side of the oppressed. It would have never been an option…I know where I stand,” he said.
He said that as a Guyanese of East Indian descent, he is proud that he was never dependent on the previous administration for anything. “My family and I were able to hold our business on our own,” he noted.
Ramsaroop and Hinds are not the only persons who have leveled charges against the former President transferring state assets to friends.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had stated, “No one doubts that in the Bharrat Jagdeo terms, the patrimony of our state has been hived off to friends and cronies in an unparalleled frenzy of nepotism and favoritism.”
He had stated that NICIL could not easily clear its name in the illicit handovers. Edul Ahmad, the foreign-based businessman bought over 16 acres of prime land from the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) through NICIL.
It is reported that Ahmad would have profited over $600M when he transformed the property, for which he paid a meagre $80M, to a housing scheme, inclusive of a shopping mall, full gas and service station and facilities to house two banks.
There is another instance when data was unearthed that a parcel of state land was gifted to another friend of Jagdeo, Eddie Boyer, at the expense of the state.
The allocation of Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) land to Boyer had resulted in much loss. The Corporation was deprived of making over US$20M just because “the President had other plans” for the plot of land, a former GuySuCo Chairman had stated.
The Corporation was about to seal a lucrative deal through the sale of just over 100 acres of land at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, to Housing Construction Limited, a Trinidadian company, but the process came to a staggering halt by the then government.
The Chairman had indicated that the government was alerted to the deal but went ahead and took the land.
A document titled Privatization in Tables Phase 11 (1993 to 2011) had revealed that those lands were “gifted” to Boyer. The document was prepared by former NICIL boss, Winston Brassington.
Page 38 of that document, item 61, showed that Boyer under the name of his company, National Hardware was sold 103.88 acres for $510M (US2.55M)—$4.9M per acre and that other buyers of land in Liliendaal paid way more than Boyer paid.
Scady Business Corp. paid $115M for 4.7 acres — $23M per acre.
Ramsaroop said that this wholesale allocation of assets at the state expense will continue to tear at the social fabric of Guyana unless the system of corruption is dealt with. He said creating racial gaps will only divide the country’s people further apart. He said people should not have to suffer because a select group of elite have connections and wealth.
“As their wealth grows, their connections grow and vice versa. That is what is putting the strain on our social fabric, inevitably creating a hustle mentality,” he added.
Hinds in his letter had stated that Guyana is a hypocritical society when it comes to discussing ethnicity and racial implications. He said even though we fully understand how ethnicity fashions the country’s politics, people still choose to remain mum on the issue of race and politics. He stated that he is opposed to the raping of state assets
“Denying the poor while enriching the rich is wrong and ugly,” he said. Guyanese of all other races have to press this administration to recover those resources.
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