Oct 29, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – There was a timely recent article carried in this newspaper titled, “With billions in play, US jails, fines candidates for not reporting campaign donations” (KN October 21). That sounds like, and is of, laws with sharp teeth and reach and biting power. We don’t have any such laws about political campaign financing in this country. But, worse still, whatever our leaders and legislatures come up with for show and selling to the Guyanese public, will be about what is frail and would fail to place a satisfying lockdown on the gravy train that is political financing in Guyana.
Whether candidates or donors (usually business desperados), campaign financing here is about cash, a particular type of cash that was irresistible to obtain due to its forbidden nature and is also irresistible to be refused. Because much of this kind of money has nowhere to go in clean and proper circles, the men behind them find ways to put them to work. One meaningful way is to give cash – it is all cash, and untold amounts of it – to crooked politicians in the hope that they are victorious at the polls, at which time the donation or investment would be worth its weight in gold and in multiples of even that precious product.
There is nothing sophisticated about political donations in Guyana. There is need and the bags of money, usually dirty money, flow in torrents. The bagmen come around, invited or unsolicited, to collect and carry away; according to reports from those giving (or shaken down by venal political operators); the bagmen, in many instances, have a set calendar and schedule with which they work. They work with the precision of clockwork in situations where everybody knows who sent whom, what is at stake, how much has to be handed over, and with moving on until the next time.
There is no accounting paper trail for the money obtained off the books and handed over similarly. There are no fingerprints, no surveillance evidence, no witnesses. In the matter of the latter, that would be those willing to say that they say or heard or know or were even around such shadowy circumstances. But, of recent in this society, men who gave a lot have neither patience nor care for what was once shrouded in stealth and cunning.
Nowadays, they flaunt their access all the way to the top, revel in and boast about their power to make powerful politicians move to their bidding and make things happen, and then sit back and celebrate their criminal fortunes. Things have gone so far in Guyana, that some of them, once persona non grata, now hobnob publicly with senior dignitaries from countries that had serious concerns over their work products and the consequences upon their systems, communities, and people.
Unlike the United States, supposedly focused on cleaning house and holding people accountable, here we don’t fine them, we feather their nests. We do so for both givers and takers. Here in Guyana, we don’t jail them, we reward them with more freedom to engage in more criminal wrongdoing. We give them lands and licences to function as cover for their illegal activities. We even place some of the clever ones on state boards so that they pillage still more.
We invite them to celebrate at presidential inaugurations. That is, celebrate the good times and wonderful life to come, where leaders, hangers-on, and those who gave them a lot of campaign money loot the wealth of this land and help themselves in unending splurges of profiteering. The situation is made infinitely worse because much of the campaign money given to grasping politicians from both sides of Guyana’s stormy divide is of the dark and dirty kind. Thus, criminality is heaped upon criminality. Thus, the way is paved for the perpetrators of criminality to be made legitimate and respectable and, at the same time, a powerful outlet is found for the rich proceeds to be put to good use that brings incalculable benefits to political people, their cabals, and those who donate to them.
The victims are the weak, vulnerable, and defenseless citizens targeted, but always promised and left hoping for a better day that will never come.
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