By GHK Lall
I used to be encouraged by Guyana’s oil discoveries. That has disappeared. It is because those oil discoveries have been accompanied by disturbing political leadership developments. I try hard to be optimistic for Guyanese, but sense for them an impoverishing fate similar to that of Angolans, Nigerians, and Iraqis.
This oil that was long dreamed about as ‘being there’ is now reality, bringing numerous expectations, great encouragements. And though I have no stake on how it is utilised, there was the interest that much good would accrue to all Guyana. Presently and given the deceptions of Guyana’s major political leaders (no exceptions), any projections about even a fraction of the good that can be had from the nation’s oil finds look bleak.
I believe Guyana’s political leaders are unswervingly committed to not be about what is open, frank, or truthful of what is really going on with our oil prize. This disturbs immensely: that they hide themselves to avoid answering to oil truths, whole truths, the real ones. It disturbs heavily when they play these artful, but transparent games that easily convince honest onlookers that they are up to no good. The shifty arrangements, the kind of partners (local and foreign), and the secret dealings all assault like high-powered boom boxes at high volume.
One leader makes a mockery of himself, condemns himself in effigy, through his actions and inactions, which well-crafted words cannot conceal. Then there is the other luminous leader, whose very presence reeks of the suspicious and sinister. This is the kind of political leadership that Guyana overseeing its oil blessings. Our oil curse expands, through a network of slippery secretive agents devoted to the unlawful, unethical, and immoral. Follow our young oil story and already there have been one controversy after another: deals made, secret plays authorised, dirty tricks piled upon the people.
Our leaders are so much in bed with oil companies that they look away, pretend ignorance, over whatever occurs 125 miles from our shoreline. They are so corrupt that they look for ways to cheat the nation via padding projects, padding costs and padding details approved or released. African leaders did similarly in Angola and Nigeria, and the political kleptocrats got filthy rich; the people remained dirt poor, no longer hoping for trickledown benefits from their oil. In Nigeria, there is the divide of north and south. In Iraq, the inner circle of Baathists and Sunnis squeezed the Shiites, making serfs of them. It took a war to right things and marginally only.
In Guyana, I detect the exact same leadership skullduggeries playing out. Soon there will be talk of more COVID-19 relief, a bump in Old Age Pensions and small shavings off fees and taxes. Beyond that, poor Guyanese will suck salt, if they get it.
Then the utterly disturbing occurred – Superior Concrete Inc. I think the government was lenient. I would have given seven hours to leave Guyana; seven days scratched. Regarding the other director that instructed the Minister of Housing and CEO of Guyana’s CH&PA to leave his premises, I would have jailed him. When First World scorn delivered; we must come down very hard and fast. Don’t come here and insult us. That was what Jones did, what Shamlin supported with his abuse. If any ordinary Guyanese had dared to confront and order a sitting minister of the government, any government, away from premises, handcuffs and baton strikes were next. If I were to discard an official Order from a state agency, it would have been the lockups.
No arrogant foreigner must be allowed to get away with such demeaning behaviour. We are a poor people; but a proud one that will not be pushed around by those who come here to exploit our riches. We must not stand for it, and we do so by sending the sharpest, strongest and clearest messages. Do things our way. Or don’t do it all, don’t come. The government was easy. My position is: get out of here. Now!
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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