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Mar 08, 2023 Features / Columnists, News, The GHK Lall Column
By GHK Lall
Kaieteur News – The nation owes the Hon. Vice President for squeezing precious time out of his still more precious schedule to enlighten it. It is some enlightenment, and I am thankful to the good doctor, the Vice President of Oil, of Finance, of Foreign Affairs. If I erred and left out vital portfolios, please pardon. Indeed, the Vice President is holding sporadic press conferences and they are revelations into the deep insides of man and leader, the torments afflicting both. I regret that the tortures of this brother of outstanding caliber are by his own hand, results of his cunning mind. The gears have a grinding, jarring sound to them; a hair-raising one.
For starters, it is a tribute to call the Vice President’s engagements press conferences. For sure, the press is invited, so that alone in these virtually one-way gatherings hosted by the Vice President qualify them as press conferences. The reality is that the press attendees and external audiences are reduced to captive listeners before a one-man seminar cum circus that could pass as an expo. It is what I call a talking to, a talking down, and talking around. Ask the man, a very senior national leader (some say the most senior), a former head-of-state, a question on oil, and he settles into spinning, weaving, and threading sessions that send the propaganda people at Exxon into frenzies of delight. He is more red, white, and blue than blueblood Exxon. The Vice President is now more Texan than the Texas-based mammoth. Guyana’s Vice President is doing Exxon’s work, speaks the canned language of America’s killer oil whale, and he is getting very good at it. To a point.
For when I force myself to ponder what Guyana’s Vice President is sharing in his recent press conferences, I come to dark and forbidding places that are bad for country, and expectant citizens. The answers that the Vice President give are of a man walking in the dark in an uneven and slippery area that he knows to be filled with deep holes, mined at the same time, and saturated with toxic air, to make matters still worse. The Vice President knows of all these traps and dangers for one simple reason. He himself is responsible for most of them.
For when pressed on ring-fencing, for example, he hedges. When leaned on for taxes, he hopscotches. And when inquired of decommissioning money that should be controlled by Guyana, he does the hula-hoop. From my humble perspective, hedging, hopscotching, and doing the hula-hoop are not the most recommended leadership attributes on anything. On oil, it is nothing more than figure skating, gyrating (in Guyanese – wining down and around), and flip flopping over what he said (or didn’t say) before versus what he is saying now. In essence, on matters involving this great oil gift to Guyanese, the Vice President has his own versions of truth, clarity, and fidelity to duty. They have never been encountered anywhere else, do not reconcile well with the accepted standards of any of the three qualities: truth, clarity, and fidelity to duty. In other places, the latter is called integrity in office, but I refuse to go there, for the Vice President is an honourable man of remarkable caliber, of proven prowess of kinds not seen anywhere at any time before.
In his prior extended stint in the topmost office, the Vice President earned a pungent reputation for cursing out and crushing down those who crossed his path at press conferences. Observing today’s angrier and more ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ version of the Vice President, when there is tempting oil, I prefer having the earlier one. Today, when there is a press conference, the Vice President displays acute impatience and of having a short fuse, with some explosive accelerant embedded.
My thinking is that he is no longer his own man. He has backed himself into such a corner, by achieving the impossible. He has succeeded in taking liquid oil, and using it to tie himself into knots. Even Alexander the Great would have had difficulty unraveling Guyana’s Vice President’s oil knots that he fashioned for himself. The Vice President cannot speak straight, cannot walk a straight line, where Guyana’s oil patrimony is concerned. Look at him, and he is a thin shadow of his former bustling, hustling, self. Today he is Dr. Twirly and Twisty, very shaky. Now he no longer speaks English, but American English whenever oil is the subject. That is, Exxon’s English. Messrs. Routledge and Woods should be proud: their schooling is paying off in aces.
I study my brother, the Vice President, and there is sadness. I recognize some other relations, the brotherhood of family and friends, who thought they were the smartest guys in the room, until they weren’t. In the Vice President’s thinking, aggression is the best defence. I close: why is a defence even needed if this oil wealth is being managed cleanly, faithfully?
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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