President Donald Ramotar yesterday rejected opposition claims that former president Bharrat Jagdeo is a lobbyist for foreign investors who are given contracts here.
“Jagdeo has not spoken with me about any contracts. Any. I can say that with all honesty and watch you full in the eye and say it. Jagdeo has not lobbied me for any contract for anyone,” Ramotar yesterday told Stabroek News as he stared straight in the eye of the reporter.
Both opposition parties have questioned the past president’s role in the award of infrastructural projects here.
“Jagdeo is always a lobbyist. He has been lobbying all the time, the man, he makes the platform so he gets all the money… He is the king behind the throne and it is very disturbing,” Alliance For Change Leader Khemraj Ramjattan said in an interview with this newspaper.
Leader of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) David Granger said his party believes that Jagdeo has a shadow presence behind big projects being implemented here and his party will continue to probe the extent of this.
“It is quite clear that the Donald Ramotar administration is more or less a sort of caretaker administration and that it is dealing with projects that were initiated during the Bharrat Jagdeo administration, and some of them seem to be unstoppable,” he said.
“It is our view that the Donald Ramotar administration is caught between a rock and a hard place because here you have on one hand scrutiny from the opposition and on the other there seems to be some invisible pressure – whether Mr Jagdeo was involved with them I don’t know, but they are all holdovers from his administration,” he added.
Granger said that the 10th Parliament has been able to put those projects they believe are Jagdeo’s initiative under considerable scrutiny and will continue to do so.
The President dismissed the opposition’s assertions, saying that under his rule lobbying by the former president or any minister would not be tolerated and that investment contracts were brokered on merit as opposed to influence.
“I don’t like lobbying and I don’t like lobbyists. I think that we should take our deliberate time and evaluate everything and the only thing for me – the most important thing for me – that it is in the interest of the people of this country,” Ramotar said.
“Again let me repeat,” he went on, “Jagdeo has never asked me to give anybody any contract or any privilege for anything… None of my ministers I don’t think … would dare come and ask me something like that.”
However he said his government welcomes the encouragement by all Guyanese to press for investment in their homeland as it aids in overall development and benefits the entire populace. “I expect any patriotic Guyanese whether, it be former president or former journalist, I expect that once they love their country they will be lobbying for their country,” he stated.
Ramotar’s views on investment were similar to those of Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon who this week said his government welcomes investment be it foreign or local. He also told the media that ministers of government travelling abroad would use the opportunity to sell destination Guyana and also persuade investors to come here. This initiative he observed, was an area government hopes that all Guyanese might follow as more money would be plugged into the development of the nation.
APNU Executive Joe Harmon told this newspaper that while he welcomes the investments brought here by foreign groups, his party feels that Jagdeo’s ties to certain investors gives those companies certain privileges over others.
“No past president should be lobbying for anyone because at the end of the day they have that clout behind them and they are going to be prejudiced…look at the Marriott and this Sun and Sands Hotel …they were able to get casino licences very quickly and you have other hotels struggling to get. You think that would have been if Jagdeo wasn’t seen as connected to them?” he asked.
“Look this must not only be transparent they must also appear to be transparent and they are not …In other countries politicians and former politicians can’t be lobbying for anyone it is wrong,” he said.
Harmon said that companies here would be privy to insider information as it pertains to what government is looking for in an investor and that sharing of information was tantamount to insider trading which is illegal.