Mar 30, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – The coalition APNU+AFC has gone to bat for the embattled current chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. David Patterson. From the sound and substance of the coalition’s representations, Mr. Patterson has something going for him in his struggles to hold on to the chairmanship of that pivotal parliamentary oversight committee. We at this paper say this, because in this country, when one side does so, the other feels justified in following in the precise pattern. It does not matter, to any material extent, that there are a slew of concerns – we go so far as to say, outright violations – in the areas of professional, moral, and ethical standards. What is relevant is that the other people did it; therefore it should stand up to scrutiny now, and pass any degree of critical muster.
We disagree with the coalition. We disagree, even as we recognize fully what is being presented, which is that there should be no double standard in his instance. That is, his troubling set of circumstances, should boil down to the usual Guyanese political reality of ‘different folks, different strokes.’ The coalition has the facts on its side: the then chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. Irfaan (now Dr. and President) Ali was indeed ‘tainted,’ but he was given a free pass, when his people shielded him. To the coalition’s point, the amount of heat being brought to bear, and the drive, to force Mr. Patterson’s humiliating exit from the chairmanship of the PAC, if not out of the PAC itself, is a classic case of overwrought passions aimed in his direction, and with overkill already at work. As an aside, and because it is worth mentioning, that same former PAC chair, the then Mr. Ali, had several fraud charges levelled against him, which were subsequently dropped, and is now the same Guyanese citizen that is the head of the Guyanese state.
All of this is not easy to overcome, especially when Mr. Patterson is fighting for more than continuity as the chair of a parliamentary committee. It is more than that, as we sense it, for he is fighting for his political life, or what is left of it. However, the but now comes, and in a manner that will be a source of ongoing agreements and disagreements.
What we think that the coalition is saying distills to this at its rawest: since that was in operation then (with Mr. Irfaan Ali) when he was left untouched, it should be the exact same result in his (David Patterson) circumstances today. As a practical matter, the toothpaste is out of the tube and cannot be put back in, as much as such is desired to level the scales. That clock has already ticked, and is gone. It is part of the sordid history of this country, and as it functions even in our august National Assembly, in the tawdry examples of our parliamentarians, who are supposed to be makers of the law, not breakers of the law.
But we have to start somewhere, and Mr. David Patterson, son of Guyana, and honourable member of the people’s house, must discern that the timing and passions are not in his favour. Not even the scurrilous precedent of that previous chairman is helpful to his cause. To be sure, it exists and is a discredit to both parliament and to the people of this society. But what has been done cannot be undone, which is the regrettable position with regards to the rationalization that his group has placed in the public domain. This leaves him in the drink with the harsh music to be faced, which could include his removal as chair of the PAC. Our well-meaning recommendation to Mr. Patterson is that he does the honourable thing. There is only one right thing that can and should be done, all considerations weighed, which is to depart on his own initiative. That is, to resign and to do so early.
More generally, for too long, and for too many years and decades, we have had the curse of corruption slowly kill us, like some slow-moving disease that never seems to leave us. We can’t go on like this. We have to make a start now, and though it may the smallest consolation (one that means nothing) to Mr. Patterson and his supporters, it could mark the turning point in how we conduct ourselves in this country, be it in parliament, or in state agencies, or in the walks of the daily street. The disposition of that much discussed and much disputed chairmanship of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee could set the bar on how we hold the feet of each other to the most intense of fires, and demand the utmost in what is clean and honourable and dignified from all.
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