Jul 27, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – “If you have nothing to hide, if you dismiss this thing as another one of those allegations that comes up in the media, why would you not want to facilitate an open discussion at the highest level of decision-making in the country to satisfy the citizens of this country? If you are saying that you are open, you are transparent, you are accountable to the people, why are you dismissing a Motion that is of grave importance to 50 percent of the population of this country?”
These were the searching questions proffered by former Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Mervyn Willams on Tuesday, as he stressed the need for an independent investigation in the Vice News allegations against Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, during a Leader of the Opposition press conference. Though the Opposition Leader, Mr. Aubrey Norton, was absent, MPs Ganesh Mahipaul and Deonarine Ramsaroop, as well as party member Elson Low shared their views on the issue.
Mahipaul during the media engagement pointed out that over the years, citizens of Guyana have been repeatedly hearing of such allegations against the Vice President, noting that an independent probe could unearth even more damning findings than those brought out in the Vice News documentaries released.
Explaining that scores of Guyanese, including those in civil society have called for an independent investigation to be conducted, Mahipaul said, “Over the years, they have heard many allegations of high level corruption but this one stinks to the highest level and they want to know the full facts.”
Importantly, he pointed out that the population deserves answers on why contracts are awarded “not to the highest bidder, but to the highest briber” and “the extent to which Jagdeo and the PPP Ministers are selling out the country for so-called consultation fees.”
It was on Thursday that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir dismissed the Opposition’s Motion calling for an independent probe of the allegations made in the United States documentary. In announcing his decision on the matter, Nadir informed the House that the issue on hand must be of a “definite matter of urgent public importance,” and in his opinion, the issue regarding the VP was not.
The Speaker said he has seen in the media many such allegations of corruption against many current members of the Assembly. “And if we have to take every allegation in the press on any issue as a matter of urgent public importance, then we are going to have, in my view, a Parliament that will be considerably demeaning diminished.” This the Speaker said, adding that in applying the two basic principles of urgency and public importance, “I do not see the urgency in this. While the issue of corruption is important to all of us, the urgency of the particular allegation I cannot accept and so I deny this request.”
Mahipaul, however, told the press that he believes that the issue is more than that which has surfaced. In response to a question from this publication on whether the Opposition believes an independent probe would shed light on prior acts of corruption, the MP said, “Most definitely! Once an investigation is independent and the composition of the body have people from the international community, we believe that it would bring out all that has happened during the period to which it will focus on to prove that indeed Jagdeo is aligned to these malpractices, to bribery, to corruption and the likes.”
Meanwhile, the Opposition members chastised the Speaker for once again proving his “biased behaviour”. In fact, Mahipaul said the political group has no hesitation to put on record that they believe his actions were “shameful and dishonourable.”
In further registering the Opposition’s disappointment of the Speaker’s ruling, Williams pointed out that the supplementary funding being sought by the government was allowed as a matter of priority, whereas, an Opposition Motion to address the present cost of living was not allowed.
He argued, “There is an interesting observation when it comes to the Speaker and his decisions. He has ruled on the question of urgency and public importance but when they come to the National Assembly with supplementary budgetary estimates to draw down additional money, they ignored the provision that says such budgetary allocations can only be approved if they were unforeseeable at the time the substantive budget was prepared and presented.”
To this end, the former MP said the same over $44.7 billion in supplementary funding was sought, a bulk of which will go to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), but the Speaker moved to dismiss Opposition Motions on the grounds that they were not urgent.
Civil society groups and members of the public have joined the calls for an independent probe to be launched into the allegations made in a Vice News documentary, in which the Vice President can be heard saying that he “assists” investors from the government’s side. It was a hidden camera that recorded the VP in his living room with his Chinese friend and tenant, Su Zhirong, who is said to be the one that collects bribes from companies in exchange for government contracts.
Dr. Jagdeo has denied the allegations and has even moved to sue Su. He has even said that he would support a probe. President Irfaan Ali and the Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, are also in favour of an investigation.
However, the Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norotn has clearly said that any investigation should not be done by the ‘state-controlled’ Guyana Police Force (GPF), but rather, an independent organisation, such as the World Bank.
Leader of the Alliance For Change, Khemraj Ramjattan has also said: “the World Bank has serious people who know how to investigate corruption, and that unit of the Bank knows what to recommend to be done.”
He also believes that an investigation by the global financial institution could save Guyana some funds by avoiding a costly Commission of Inquiry (CoI) as well as avoid a questionable report, if conducted by local Commissioners. As an alternative, the former Minister insisted that an international, reputable list of Commissioners must be hired, to carry out the investigation.
One civil society body, Article 13, also said they support the call for an independent probe. The members of the group also believe that Jagdeo should vacate office pending the outcome of the investigation.
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