Apr 29, 2018 News
By Leonard Gildarie
Corruption is a cancer: a cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity; already-tight national budgets, crowding out important national investments. It wastes the talent of entire generations. It scares away investments and jobs – Joe Biden, former US Vice President.
Perhaps one of the most telling quotes that tugs at the heartstrings of patriotism. It captures in full swing, the impact of corruption on a country.
How many of us can tell of our frustration of once waiting at the GPO building for a birth or death certificate or even such a small thing like booking a date for the wedding and being forced to pay a security guard to allow you in?
What about the passport office? Remember the long lines in the sun and then you see somebody slipping in the front door and whispering to an officer who came out from a back office? Then the officer comes and hands this man, dressed in heavy gold chains, and looking smug, an envelope. That is corruption!
What about the family at Back Street who has been waiting years for a paved road? The announcement was finally made. The contractor came. The NDC chairman and the overseer came and there were some flowery speeches. The work starts. There was some dust, and weeks of inconvenience. The road is finally finished. More speeches and the road is ready to be used. It starts crumbling. The water settles in the middle of the road. The NDC chairman is not available and the overseer is never in office to take calls.
Just over a week ago, the British High Commissioner, Greg Quinn, was among a few individuals who participated in a corruption march on Camp Street. Many countries in giving aid for projects really want those projects to benefit the masses.
Guyana is so steeped in corruption that sometimes I wonder if we really realize what it is. A simple thing such as accepting $1,000 lunch money is a form of bribery.
Every day I traverse the East Bank road. Nine out 10 times, the traffic police would stop persons and want to see their documents. I started paying attention recently and saw one officer, in his 20s, would every night stop me at Houston.
I reminded him he stopped me last night and asked for the same documents and I am sure it was his colleague that stopped me a few days ago. I have a feeling I am being stereotyped. But more on this later.
On Friday I was at the Timehri airport and saw a wonderful project taking shape. We were not too happy in the beginning over news of the US$150M expansion; back in 2011 it was one of the largest projects. There were questions over costs and the lack of local contractors. There is a disgraced Chinese investor who has been given contracts to transport materials, using his vehicles brought in for forestry activities. It is a breach to abuse the concessions.
I am sure the airport knows about this breach and I am sure that we could have created some jobs by giving our locals -who probably took loans for their equipment – a piece of the pie. Over 800,000 truckloads of materials were used to fill the land to extend the runway. How much of that did we get?
I have diverted.
According to Public Works Minister, David Patterson, the project was inherited in 2015 with the Chinese contractor paid 70 percent of the monies with less than half of the work done.
To salvage the project, there were major changes. We had to sacrifice a brand new terminal building. We had to use the old terminal building and refigure it for some use. It was supposed to be dismantled or used for something else.
The US$150M, a loan from China, we are told will not do. Patterson will have to ask the National Assembly for more monies this year. All because somebody before 2015 did not pay attention or worse…corruption.
Patterson believes that he is getting value for the remaining money that was spent on the project under his watch. I believe him. I understand the dilemma of the minister.
Firing the contractor was not an option when you have advanced this far.
Where was the consultant who was managing the project on behalf of myself and the rest of taxpaying folks of this country? Why can’t we name and shame them? Your guess is as good as mine as to what happened here.
I come to another issue that has me deeply ashamed. Sometime back, Freddie Kissoon wrote a piece in which he said he is ashamed to be Guyanese. There was anger. One man told me he wanted to spit on him. We have our pride.
But what happened to me recently has me wondering about that article.
I applied for a firearm for my protection and that of my family last year. The process of getting the documents ready for the application took months and proved to be a major headache. I had to get a letter from Kaieteur News stating I was employed.
Required also were passport pictures and photocopies of my identification. A police rank had to come home and interview me and write a statement. While this was happening, I was required to get tax compliance from GRA which said that I have fully paid up. The problems started there. I was told I was missing a year.
So I had to go back to Kaieteur News and get a statement, fill out a tax return form and submit it to GRA to update my records. That took several weeks, as someone at GRA had to input it into the system. I finally, after about six weeks, got the tax compliance statement.
I went back to the police at Ruimveldt. They finally okayed it and I was told that it was submitted to the Police Commander at Brickdam. This was around November.
The Commander was very professional. I was interviewed and I was told the file was sent to the Police Commissioner’s office the next week. There were two persons serving in the post of Police Commissioner during that time to now.
As of yesterday, April 28, 2018, I have not been notified or received any acknowledgment of anything of the application from the office of the Police Commissioner. I am not sure of the status. I have my suspicions.
I come back to what Freddie wrote about being ashamed. Should I be ashamed to be treated in this manner? How many licences were issued over the last year? And to whom? Am I capable of carrying one? Can I use the Freedom of Information Act to pursue? Should I?
I remember Glenn Lall telling me of being ordered by a former Top Cop to hand over a number of firearms that were approved for Kaieteur News. We were being targeted for our corruption fight. It was prior to 2015. It was returned after 2015, after much agitation.
During the period, the staffers of Kaieteur News were without protection. We swallowed our pride and kept quiet. The newspaper was not about to ask favours. Glenn Lall is that type of man.
We know of several pressmen who were killed in an invasion of Kaieteur News premises.
We know of another incident where Adam Harris was placed on the floor of the newsroom with Mondale Smith and a few others.
Should I be ashamed? Should I beg? Shouldn’t I have received at least an acknowledgment from the office of the Police Commissioner?
I know there will be repercussions. So be it.
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