I refer to the article in the Kaieteur News of Saturday, May 12, entitled, “PPP/C ‘gifted’ $$M tug and barge to Kwakwani supporter”. – “We recovered the barge and leased it to the NDC” – Patterson. That article was adorned with pictures of the Honourable Minister and the Honourable AFC MP Audwin Rutherford.
Editor, that article was a gross distortion. There was no ‘gifting’: the tug which at the time was partially sunk and virtually scrapped was sold and bought via an open, advertised invitation of bids and subsequently rehabilitated sufficiently by its new owner, a river-crossing operator.
The barge was leased as both the Honourable Minister and Honourable MP concede after alleging that it was ‘gifted’. That barge-crossing operator (Mr. Edwards) was not known at that time nor even today to be a supporter of the PPP/C although I acknowledge that we of the PPP/C work with the hope of fairly earning the earnest approval of every Guyanese in the quiet of their hearts, and their precious votes in the privacy of the polling booth.
Editor, if the article is read dispassionately it would become clear how the Honourable Minister and the Honourable MP are playing with the emotions of the reader, going one way then another, and attempting to smear the PPP/C each way. Consider the following extract with my observations inserted in square brackets[ ]:
“He (Patterson) said that the ‘privatization’ happened under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
Patterson said that he approached NICIL in an effort to get information on the barge and the privatization process ‘and I will be very frank, NICIL has no information; none whatsoever’ [there is the insinuation here that the PPP/C with the departing CEO had destroyed all the records to hide their corruption!].
The Minister said that he [none-the-less] resorted to contacting the former NICIL Director [CEO], ‘that same [accused] Winston Brassington who was overseas at the time. He [WB, who was readily contacted and under no obligation to so do] directed me to where I could have found the information on the barge [so the information was there, available, not hidden nor destroyed].
Patterson said that it was so he learnt that the barge was leased [not gifted] on a contract that would come to an end later 2015 [full disclosure – nothing hidden].”
Editor, read dispassionately, the Honourable Minister is saying that when he contacted NICIL initially he could get no information, and we know what is insinuated (lots of corruption and hiding all that gifting to a claimed supporter) but when he readily contacted the much-maligned Winston Brassington, WB directed him to where he found a full disclosure.
Rather than leaving damning insinuations and innuendos hanging, the Honourable Minister and MP should be heaping praise on Mr. Brassington and the PPP/C for a job transparently, honestly and well done and documented!
And, also, they should be complimenting Mr. Edwards who took the risk, ventured forth and established a service to satisfy the needs of the community.
Editor, in the circumstances that prevailed the praise should be extended even more widely. The Honourable Minister and the Honourable MP are old enough to know the state to which the bauxite companies and communities would have deteriorated by 1992, after years of huge difficulties and losses, and the reasoning and insistence of the supporting multilateral financial agencies that special subsidies from our national treasury should be brought to an end.
Services provided countrywide by the Government should be handed to and handled directly by the Government. The remaining core and non-core elements could be unbundled and private equity owners found for them or they should be shutdown.
The Honourable Minister and MP should have heard also about the great challenge identified in LEAP (Linden Economic Advancement Programme) of transforming the dependency mindset of people in company towns into enterprising minds looking to provide goods and services to the community and paying economic prices for services that were earlier provided at no charge or greatly subsidized by the company.
It was in such circumstances that the river-crossing service (and others) provided earlier by the bauxite company and which had ground to a virtual halt, was to be reoffered.
You can imagine therefore how heartened I was when two persons, from the area and Afro-Guyanese (Mr. Edwards and Mr. Vandenburg), began barge crossing services, both of them at Kwakwani and Mr. Vandenburg additionally at Aroiama.
They were worthy of commendation for their initial wooden barges each coupled with a small boat with outboard engine. In much the same vein allow me to mention the encouragement and facilitation we provided to Mr. Mendonca, another long time Afro Guyanese of Kwakwani (not a known supporter of the PPP/C though I tried so greatly to win him over) to set up the gas station in Kwakwani and our search to encourage some other in Aroiama or Hururu to offer a gas station at that location, also.
It is true, much to my consternation, that the leased big steel barge was taken away from Mr. Edwards, unceremoniously, without notice and without cause. The Honourable Minister seems to be boasting about and finding glory in how “he had to pull out all stops to get the barge back”.
And this from a member of a Government which is carried on the backs of many Afro Guyanese who are easily agitated about the evident low number of black-owned businesses and made to blame the PPP and the PPP/C.
This is not the occasion for me to develop and argue the point that much of the problem lies, as is evident in this instance, in the historical ambiguities in Afro Guyanese society to private enterprise and the exploitation rather than the reconciliation of the evident contradictions, by many of that group who should and do know better.
I note the allegations I heard of nepotism in the contracted-out arrangements of the NDC for the operation of this big-barge crossing.
Editor, the Honourable Minister and the Honourable MP should know from our nation’s sad experience of the 1970s and 1980s that as we “tek away” we remove the drive for our people to work lawfully, save purposely, invest in the formal economy and grow themselves and our country.
Editor, in closing please allow me to set the record straight with respect to ‘other barges’ and tugs. At the time of the merger of Bermine into AMC/ABC, most of the Bermine-owned barging fleet which had suffered the prevailing level of deterioration, and many of which were tied-up or sunk at various points along the river were offered by way of openly advertised tender on an as-is, where-is basis.
No offers were made for a number of sunken barges and in time they were made available on a self-help, recovery basis. Some may still be available for whomsoever so wishes.
Samuel A. A. Hinds
Former Minister Responsible for Mining including Bauxite,
Former Prime Minister and Former President
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