Response is being made to Tacuma Ogunseye’s “A 360-degree change in thinking and behaviour of gov’t is required” and George N. Cave’s “My interpretation of Lincoln Lewis’ article” (SN, 21st November, 2018).
These letters are weighing on my two recent “Eye on Guyana” articles (Kaieteur News) and Minister of Finance Winston Jordan’s response to the last one, “Local Government Elections, though disappointing to some, were not unexpected’ (18th November 2018).
Both are commended for joining the discourse which aids the developing of a repertoire of knowledge to confront and attend to circumstances within our society.
Attention is particularly given to Ogunseye’s view “to the extent that comrade Lincoln Lewis has been less than careful in his articulation and criticisms of government ….”
The Minister’s response to me was a clear act of deception, even moreso when the Department of Public Information, under the authorship of the Director of Public Information, Imran Khan, in a statement dated 18th November 2015 said otherwise.
In that release which was carried by the media, it expressly stated, “His Excellency President David Granger received a 5% salary increase.”
I cited as my source the state-owned Guyana Chronicle article of 19th November 2015 – “Jagdeo, Ramotar received tax free salaries” – to minimise or avoid any allegation that the source is not credible and is lying on the government.
What the Minister said in his 18th November 2018 letter, which was carried in the media on 19th, is that “President David Arthur Granger has not benefited from any salary increase since coming to Office.” The Minister refers to this as a “fact.” This nation does not deserve this level of deception, and coming from such a senior member of government.
In my article of 18th November, I said “The administration should not forget that the 50 percent and other increases paid to the President, his ministers and all the parliamentarians, in less than six months coming to office…”
The Minister’s letter at Fact 3 (18th November 2018) and DPI’s statement (18th November 2015) confirmed what I wrote.
The other parts of the Minister’s letter were not denial of the issues raised with regard to subsidies, bonus and salary increases, but political spin, in saying the subsidies (water and electricity) that were received by the elderly and bonus by the Disciplined Services were not taken away, but incorporated into their pension and salary. The fact that these benefits are removed, in that they were offered separately, from a trade union standpoint they are considered taken away. What is even more egregious is the removal of these benefits were not discussed with and agreed to by the constituents affected.
Aside from noting in brother Cave’s response the mixing up of my 11th and 18th article, let me seek to correct the inaccuracies in his letter, which could hopefully lend clarity to my position. It was not my 11th November article that the statement was made of interactions with citizens/voters in East Coast Demerara, West Coast Berbice and Georgetown. This reference was made in the 18th article which did an evaluation of the results based on feedback from the various constituents and my take why APNU and the AFC did so poorly at the polls.
It is also not accurate to say that “Mr Lewis had not (repeat, not) – in his 11th November article – called on people to vote.” That article, “Tomorrow is Local Government Elections. Vote for…,” the last paragraph reads thus, “Tomorrow presents the opportunity to signal the determination to actively participate in your welfare in the village/ward and ensuring development takes place in your community. Vote!”
As to whether it was expected of me to call or not call on voters to vote APNU and AFC, let such be disabused. The APNU, AFC, PPP and others had the opportunity, at the Local Government level since 2016, to prove themselves. It is not for me, who do not know the candidates in the 70+ local authorities, their performance or promises and whether they have passed the test, to tell voters who to vote for. These groups and parties had their work to do within the respective local authorities, the benefits of which they all reaped all on 2nd and 12th November when the Disciplined Services and general population voted.
Come 2020, I’ll exercise my judgment whether I shall take a national position on the political discourse to call on workers/citizens to rehire the coalition, fire them, or sit out the political engagement and on Election Day go to the poll and cast my ballot for the group or party I repose the confidence in to take us into the next five years.
Our votes are not the entitlement of any group or party. They have to earn them. It is time the political leadership, across the divide, recognise such and for us to continue to hold them to account to govern in our collective interest.
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