There is never a dull moment in Guyana, especially when one looks at the political situation. In recent times there was a lot of excitement surrounding the decision by the Caribbean Court of Justice. The focus was on the preparation for general elections in the wake of the no-confidence motion.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo fuels most of the excitement with his statements. He rarely misses a trick to hurl darts at the government. But there is always the warning that not everything he says is true.
I keep abreast of international news and I find that at least one man easily matches Jagdeo when it comes to distortions. Indeed Jagdeo can be controversial, especially when he targets a person or a group. For example, he is obsessed that President David Granger has not attracted accusations of corruption.
Such is the obsession that he has even accused the media of protecting Granger and keeping him out of the fray, although there is nothing so far to suggest that Granger is corrupt or would tolerate corruption.
So it was that Jagdeo went out on a limb to create evidence of corruption in the Granger camp. But in doing so, he exposes his propensity for racism. He had already been hauled before the court for racist utterances.
On Thursday he pulled out his propensity once more. Armed with what he called irrefutable information, he set up a wall chart and proceeded to demonstrate the partisan nature of the People’s National Congress.
Jagdeo identified plots of land that he claimed the Granger administration allocated to supporters, friends and family of PNC members. His presentation was impressive and convincing, perhaps too convincing. All the identified recipients of the land were people of African ancestry.
The icing on the cake was the claim that all this land was allocated after the passage of the no-confidence motion on December 21, 2018.
Something strange happened after this disclosure. Usually, the social media would rush to publish the scandal. But on this occasion there was not a peep. Jagdeo was too good to be true. It turned out that the media operatives were fact-checking.
With the exception of the newspaper that Jagdeo founded, nobody took Jagdeo at face value. And for good reason. He lied. The backlash was furious. The people he identified were people who keep their records.
It turned out that their applications were made during the Jagdeo administration. Two were even approved during the tenure of the administration of the People’s Progressive Party.
But something interesting was revealed. Jagdeo had said that some 10,000 acres of land in the Pomeroon were given to people closely associated with the PNC. He did not name the individuals as he did when he singled out Charles Ceres, Eric Phillips, Aubrey Hetemyer, and Christopher Jones.
It turned out that the land had been leased to some people a long time back. Jagdeo and his cohorts decided to repossess the land, so the holders went to court. They won, but Jagdeo refused to heed the court order.
I cannot help but notice the decision to jail the Finance Minister, Winston Jordan for failing to honour a court decision that was made against the PPP. When Jagdeo refused to heed the court order to return the land, no one even thought of citing the responsible party for contempt.
The current Commissioner of Lands and Surveys, Trevor Benn, was saddled with the responsibility to return the land. And he did.
Perhaps the most vitriolic attack against Jagdeo came from Charles Ceres. A group had applied for land since 2004, but somehow the application got lost in the administrative milieu. It was the same with Eric Phillips. They kept calling the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission.
Phillips’s application had disappeared for two years. I refuse to believe that someone was deliberately frustrating the applications. Perhaps the stage was being set to allow others favourable to the administration of the day to apply for those lands.
What Jagdeo’s ‘revelations’ did was highlight what actually went on during his party’s administration. Indeed there were land giveaways. The lands may not have been given away for free, but for peppercorn rates.
Ceres noted that he was asked to pay a phenomenal lease when compared to Jagdeo’s people. He paid. He was asked to pay even a higher lease later, but he refused, and he did so in writing.
He spoke about the 103 acres of land ostensibly sold to Eddie Boyer at Liliendaal. That was prime land which Boyer undertook to develop. He divided the land into house lots which he sold at a rate that allowed him to recover the small cost he paid after selling no more than four lots.
Today, taxpayers’ money must go toward paying for the infrastructural development, contrary to the arrangement that facilitated the land sale.
To link Ceres to the political administration, Jagdeo noted that Ceres’s wife worked in the Ministry of the Presidency. Ceres said that the woman has no interest in land.
Now there is another twist. The information that Jagdeo released, albeit in a distorted manner, was obtained by fraud. Mr. Trevor Benn, head of lands and surveys said that such information must be paid for. He said there was no record of any application or payment for the information. He has now invited the police to investigate.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan had earlier noted the presence of people who would steal sensitive documents and forward them to Jagdeo. He did not call in the police, because he knew that that not every employee would be a supporter of the government.
Now that the extent of moles has been verified, one does not expect a sweep of employees. But one would expect honest labour.
President David Granger, at a function at the Ministry of the Presidency, had said that he was not averse to having people of different political persuasion working in his administration.
I remember the PPP talking about witch hunt, but failed to provide one iota of evidence. That was part of the ploy to suggest that political partisanship existed within the ranks of the coalition.
What happened on Thursday was just another attempt to score political points, even if it meant distorting the facts.
It is worrying that Jagdeo is not opposed to playing the race card. The message is that people of a certain ethnic origin are benefiting under this government. The message to people of other ethnic origins is that they should come out. For what reason? I wish I could say.
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