Twenty stories the President would prefer not to hear about

Dear Editor,
President Bharrat Jagdeo continues to vehemently deny that he is seeking a third term in office, (`Jagdeo again denies third term push,’ July 10), while both the PPP and PNC have clearly stated their aversion to a third term for the President.

The President’s repeated denial of a third term bid was made, this time around, while visiting the place of my birth: Linden, where he addressed a gathering of Lindeners in what can best be described as a ‘controlled setting’ at Watooka Club, as opposed to, say, the more spacious open air Mckenzie Sports Club or Cuffy Square.

And as usual, he accused Stabroek News of wanting to sell newspapers rather than telling the truth when the newspaper cited ‘sources’ for a recent story that said the President was present at a Freedom House meeting when a group of PPP leaders made a case for his third term.

If truth is the rod by which the President wants to measure himself against Stabroek News, then the newspaper will win hands down, because this newspaper is one of two major independent dailies in Guyana that has been reporting on activities the government will never allow its state-controlled media entities to report. Yes, it can be more aggressive in some areas, but if it weren’t for SN and other private media in Guyana the public would never know a quarter of the stuff that is now in the public domain, so to the President, truth is relevant and not absolute.

In fact, when he referred to ‘five known contributors’ to the newspapers as ‘some bitter old people’ and the gathering went ‘wild’, he ought to be very thankful that the Freedom of Information Law he promised last April in Trinidad and to have Parliament legislate into law (before year end) has still not been implemented.

With such a law in effect, there would have been five hundred or five thousand justified bitter people of all ages and races filling up the newspapers and probably the streets given what would be unearthed in government.

“Every day they in the newspapers with some old story, some sour story, all kinds of stuff…and half of them are totally useless,“ he said. But notice he said ‘half of them are totally useless’ as opposed to ‘totally untrue’. The truth is, in his eleven short years at the helm of the nation, Guyana has experienced a tumultuous journey into the land of hitherto unknown centralized corruption, which the private media painstakingly investigated and reported even though there is no FOI Law. Guyanese ought to be thankful for the independent media or else the political steamroller would have made it worse by now.

Others can pick another starting point, but I can start with the Dolphin scandal right in his office and identify similar corruption stops and ineptitude, all because of a proactive independent media. Other examples include but are not limited to: 1. The Globe Trust bust that was never independently investigated. 2. The CLICO collapse that was never independently investigated. 3. The broken NIS, yet millions of dollars taken from it for the Berbice Bridge construction. 4. The outlook of GuySuCo in general and the $200M Skeldon Plant in particular. 5. The NDIA contract and a host of others with questionable tender practices, including one water-pump station costing $78M. 6. The Olympic size swimming pool that started in 2007 and then stalled. 7. The stelling that floated away and the other one that sank, costing taxpayer’s millions of dollars. 8. The acquisition of Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation and Sanata Complex with the government spending hundreds of million of taxpayers’ money on contracts to these businesses.   The failure to place monies collected from Guyana’s overseas missions into the proper account in Guyana.

10. The ongoing Lotto and Consolidated Fund multi million dollar sagas. 11. The dubious relationship between the government-owned Privatization Unit and the National Investment Corporation Limited (NICIL) in which hundreds of millions of dollars are the subject of serious questioning. 12. The government’s $168M deal with Buddy’s to hasten completion of his hotel in time for CWC 2007, and for which government wound up setting up a sweetheart repayment deal only to see it sold for a profit a year later. 13. The government awarding of US$15M to Fip Motilall to build a road to Amaila Falls even though Motilall never built a similar road before (while the actual cost of the hydro project itself deserves an international analysis before Guyanese wind up footing an unnecessary massive bill for generations to come). 14. Failure to appoint a Procurement Commission to do its job. 15. Failure to stage Local Government Elections since 1994. 16. Failure to adopt repeated recommendations of the Auditor-General to curb misappropriation of funds. 18. Failure to reform the Judiciary, and the Guyana Police and Defence Forces. 19. Failure to implement a Freedom of Information Law. 20. Failure to investigate the deaths of over 200 Guyanese during the 2002-2004 crime spree, the role of the Phantom Squad, drug smugglers, and the imported spy equipment.

I am going to stop at those 20 for now, but since the President visited Linden to make his pronouncements, then may I ask two separate but equally profound questions of the President: Why does he think his offer of $300M for infrastructural works (18 months away from elections) will persuade Lindeners that his government really cares about them when he could have made this same offer right after 2006? And why does his government continue to exercise control over what Lindeners can view on television by allowing only the government-owned station to operate with government-approved programming? This is exactly how communist dictatorships behave when they want to control the minds of people.

I am also surprised that no Lindener bothered to ask him why he (as Information and Communications Minister) refuses to honour the Chief Justice’s ruling and allow two Lindeners, Messrs. Mortimer Yearwood and Norman Chapman, to obtain a licence to operate an independent radio station in Linden, because this is just as important to the rights of Lindeners as the right to improved infrastructure, and both of which should be executed in a timely manner and not be subjected to political manipulation for cheap points scoring.

May I remind the President that he was just a cabinet minister when the PPP handed him the presidency and that instead of treating it as a right to do and say whatever he likes without regard to others’ rights and even the pre-eminent role of the law, he should be a humble leader who is glad to serve the people and not just the interests of a select few. A third term for him, whether as President or as the political puppet master, is definitely out of the picture if Guyana is to move to the next level on the up and up.

Yours faithfully,
Emile Mervin,
Queens, New York

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