Jun 27, 2022 Letters
First, let me be clear, the agenda of the Organization for the Victory of the People (OVP) is not set by Vice News. This US based media outfit is well-known for going into so-called Third World countries such as Guyana, with their Western bias and agenda. It is time the people of Guyana set their own agenda and stop allowing themselves to be mired in the false narratives and confusion perpetrated by the two major political parties and foreign entities – both business and media outlets.
We did not need Vice News to tell us that our politicians are corrupt. This is not news to the people of Guyana. Every Guyanese, from seasoned political commentators to any man or woman stopped in the streets for a comment, could tell you this.
It is important to note that corruption is not something specific to so-called Third World countries. The idea that it is only countries in the Global South that suffer from corruption, and that Western countries are somehow upright and squeaky clean is absurd. It is an idea used to reinforce the West’s racist and paternalistic narrative. ‘Corrupt politicians’ is a global phenomenon that is brushed under the carpet when it occurs in the US, Canada and Europe. Cases such as the recent debacle with UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak and his wife, the US President’s son Hunter Biden and his contracts in the Ukraine, the Clinton’s in Haiti, the many corporations who made a fortune from the destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other countries are just a few examples.
Of course, the Vice News documentary will be used as a political football by the two major parties, and as always, the real and important issues at stake will be lost. Bharrat Jagdeo, in his interview with Vice News, talks about Guyana’s undemocratic culture going back to the early days of PNC/R rule, stating that this came to an end when the PPP/C was elected in 1992. The question becomes how much longer are we Guyanese going to tolerate such blatant falsehoods and outright nonsense? The truth is both major parties have engaged in wholesale corruption, can be accused of treasonous behaviour and have sold out Guyana’s patrimony since the PNC/R government of Desmond Hoyte came to power in 1985. In fact, the PPP government from 1999-2011, led by Jagdeo, was arguably one of the most corrupt governments Guyana has ever seen. During that period, we all know that Guyana was turned into a narco-state, where political assassination became the order of the day.
We, the people of Guyana, need to understand two things about the recent Vice News exposé. One, is that if we are going to examine the idea of “Guyana for Sale”, then we should look at every instance where foreign capital has been allowed to enter Guyana and plunder our resources and how this has been facilitated by both major parties and their surrogates. OVP has been talking about this “plunder by invitation” for years. There was the Canadian based gold mining company, Omai, extracting an estimated 3.9 million ounces of gold between 1993 and 2017 and never paying a cent in taxes, claiming they never made a profit. In October 2020, they entered into negotiations with the present government to return to Guyana. We must demand an answer from APNU+AFC Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, as to who ordered him to sign the treasonous contract, one of the most exploitative and lop-sided contracts in the history of the global oil and gas industry, with the US imperial entity, ExxonMobil. There was Barama and Bai Shan Lin, and the list goes on. Then there is the issue of local big business passing fat envelopes of money as ‘donations’ to both parties every election, and reaping the rewards of these ‘donations’ with big contracts, concessions, tax breaks, land handouts, etc., no matter which party forms the new government.
As OVP has always pointed out to the Guyanese people, we too often focus on our domestic situation as if the outside world does not exist and does not impact us. Right now, a global reset is taking place. The US and West European countries are in decline, and Russia and China are asserting themselves economically and militarily, challenging the unilateralism and hegemony of the US Empire. In this context, Vice News exclusively focusing on Chinese investment in Guyana, while failing to mention US, Canadian and UK-based companies and their well-documented corrupt dealings in Guyana is most interesting and revealing. The anti-Chinese rhetoric comes as no surprise. It is fuelled by the ABC countries and is being propagated all over Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America and throughout the Global South. Hillary Clinton, during her time as US Secretary of State, toured Africa, to warn African leaders to beware of China’s agenda in Africa. She insinuated that unlike the US, China would not uphold democracy and human rights. African leaders could not hide their amusement. After all, despite the fact that all superpowers have their downside, it could not be ignored that China did not have colonies in Africa, or for that matter anywhere in the Global South, as Europe did. China did not capture and enslave Africans as the West Europeans did, and did not benefit for more than two hundred years from the free labour of captured Africans as the US did. And the fact remains that China assisted many colonised countries in Africa and throughout the Global South during their struggle for independence and against Apartheid.
Many globally renowned political commentators have pointed to the fact that the US and Western Europe are clearly threatened by the reality that countries in Africa and throughout the Global South are increasingly opting to deal with China. This is not only because of their more amicable relations with China historically, but also because the Chinese, unlike the US and their West European allies, do not interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign nation-states, and offer far less exploitative deals than has been the case with US and West European investments.
Obviously, the very existence of superpowers is less than ideal and in the real world, all foreign governments and companies will do their best to get the most advantageous deal for themselves and those they represent. The onus is therefore on the Government of Guyana to represent Guyana and its people, and stand firm in terms of getting a fair deal for us.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to rely on either PNC/R or PPP/C led governments to defend our sovereign rights and national dignity. We most certainly do need to open an investigation into the sale of Guyana, but let us not simply scapegoat one man and China, as Vice News would have us do, and then pretend all is well and justice has been served. For once, let us not fall into the PPP/C versus PNC/R trap that has taken us nowhere for too long. Let us have the courage to call into question the entire gamut of corrupt and treasonous deals of successive governments with both local and foreign companies. Meaningful change in Guyana can only occur when we, as a nation, are finally able to confront the difficult truth facing us, which is that neither of the two leviathans, PPP/C and PNCR, are interested in or capable of the type of transformational politics that can deliver economic justice, dignity and true independence. We have to stop bickering over falsehoods and have the courage to speak the truth. Even Forbes Burnham’s most aggressive detractors are forced to admit that his was the only government that did not allow the plunder of Guyana’s resources at the expense of the Guyanese people. Every successive government since his death has failed us in this respect. This is a matter of fact not opinion. To quote Burnham: “We have seen in Guyana and in other underdeveloped countries, foreign owned extractive industries prosper, while the native population remains poor and destitute…we must now get the large share of the cake, otherwise what is the difference between Guyana and a colony? What shall we tell our children when they ask us to explain the gaping holes in the earth whence rich minerals have been won…all of us who live in ex-colonies are faced with the problem of ending economic servitude and establishing economic independence.”
Gerald A. Perreira
Organization for the Victory of the People (OVP)
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