Judging from the weekly posturing and self-serving rhetoric coming from Bharrat Jagdeo and Freedom House, it is clear that they are hoping and praying that people will forget what transpired during their time in office. Jagdeo, I am sure, is hoping that Guyanese have forgotten that during his Presidency, the Peoples Progressive Party- PPP- persistently failed to address the people’s basic needs for public services and embarked instead on a series of expensive but misconceived mega-projects such as the Fibre Optic Cable Project, the Skeldon Sugar Modernisation Project, the Specialty Surgical Hospital and the Amaila Falls Hydro-power Project road. Jagdeo’s successor, President Donald Ramotar, was obliged to cancel contracts for all of those projects after the loss of billions of tax-payer dollars.
The newly cleansed, want us to forget the pattern of discrimination and poor governance that was rampant during their 23 years in office. The PPP ignored the issues of crime, poor infrastructure, sanitation, water-supply, electricity, and lack of recreational facilities in certain neighbourhoods, municipalities and regions. Individuals were victimised for speaking out against the PPP’s improprieties. Persons had their jobs taken away for blowing the whistle on government corruption. Citizens were physically attacked and injured for daring to voice their opposition to the regime’s heavy-handed oppression. In fact, entire communities were targeted by the dictators in the ironically named Freedom House. Central Georgetown especially, experienced the anger of the regime, because the PPP believed that most of the Capital’s residents did not support their Party. Agricola, Linden, parts of New Amsterdam and other areas, also experienced the regime’s wrath. The PPP dictatorship ruled in a manner which benefited only its closest friends, while those who opposed its discriminatory policies were deliberately punished.
As President both Jagdeo and Ramotar failed to address the country’s most pressing problem – the public security crisis. The PPP has never accepted its responsibility for the high rate of armed robberies, the murderous maritime piracy, the rampant gun-running and contraband smuggling and other violent crimes that raged along the coastland during its time in office.
The entire nation was alarmed at the rising homicide rate. There were more than 2,100 murders during the two deadly Jagdeo and Ramotar presidencies. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime listed Guyana’s 2010 homicide rate as the fourth highest murder rate in South America. Guyana’s murder rate under the PPP was three times higher than that of the United States.
Mr. Jagdeo and his new side-kick Anil Nandlall are of the opinion that the era of the Phantom Squad is forgotten and there is no memory of the fear that gripped this nation during their time in office. They want to us forget that among the victims of the Phantom Gang were Stephen Lesniak, an American Diplomat; Satyadeow Sawh, a Minister of Agriculture; Ronald Waddell, a famous TV talk show host; George Bacchus, a former member of the Phantom Gang, who was shot to death on the night before he was to implicate a very senior member of that gang.
It is ironic that the newly converted think that we have forgotten how they trampled on the Judiciary and the Legislature. Guyanese will never forget that the PPP government during its time in office orchestrated a pattern of obstruction of justice by protecting cabinet ministers and other functionaries who were involved in criminal activities. Between 2000 and 2004, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) refused to file criminal charges against Ronald Gajraj, the Minister of Home Affairs, even though there was overwhelming evidence that he had colluded with Roger Khan’s Phantom Gang. President Jagdeo forced by public outcry, rewarded Gajraj with a lateral transfer from the Cabinet to a diplomatic post, appointing him High Commissioner to India.
There was no commission of inquiry into the death of a sitting Cabinet Minister Satyadeo Sawh; no Coroner’s Inquest, nothing.
Similarly, there was no investigation into Dr. Leslie Ramsammy (Jagdeo’s Minster of Health) alleged involvement in assisting a Drug Lord to obtain high tech electronic equipment that was restricted to members of the security forces.
The now penitent and very vocal former Attorney General Anil Nandlall would like for us to forget or dismiss what happened on October 27, 2014 when the so-called Kshatriya warrior uttered terroristic threats against a media house. No changes were filed against the sitting Attorney General. President Ramotar, following Jagdeo’s precedent, refused to fire Nandlall for “conduct unbecoming of a Minister of Government.”
It was instructive that Jagdeo and the PPP did not take part in the recently held anti-corruption march. For who could forget that it was under Jagdeo’s watch, Guyana became one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index of 2013 (TICPI) ranked Guyana 136th out of 177 countries – 121 places behind Barbados, the least corrupt country in the Caribbean.
We will not forget that under the PPP, Guyana accumulated one of the worst human rights records in the world. Between 2001 and 2010, Amnesty International reported about the torture and maltreatment of prisoners by the Guyana Police Force and the fatal police shootings in disputed circumstances.
Those of us who lived through those troublesome times can never forget that under the PPP, the use of deadly force against unarmed civilians was common place. On July 18, 2013, members of the Guyana Police Force, under the control of the Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, opened fire on a group of unarmed protestors in the town of Linden, resulting in the deaths of Allan Lewis, Ron Summerset, and Chemroy Bouyea, and injuries to several other individuals. The Linden Commission of Inquiry found that the police had used excessive force and awarded compensation to the victims of the deadly police shooting.
During its 23 years in office, the PPP Government established an unenviable record of criminality, corruption, human rights abuse, abuse of power, obstruction of justice and incompetence. Jagdeo would now like for all of us to pretend that none of this happened. The PPP is banking that we will forget the lessons of the recent past and judge them by their new posturing and self-righteous rhetoric.
George Santayana philosopher and essayist famously said- those who forget the lessons of the past are condemned to repeat it.
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