The opposition AFC is trying to whip up public support for a demonstration to mark the “ills and disasters” of the Bharrat Jagdeo presidency, to coincide with an event planned for today to pay tribute to his national contributions.
In full page paid advertisements, published in the Stabroek News and Kaieteur News, the party urged Guyanese to either wear something black or display it on their houses, business and cars today. “The people of Guyana will appreciate Jagdeo for all that he has done to our lives and communities on Friday September 16, 2011,” the party said in the ad, which identifies today as a “Day of Shame & Disgrace.” It identified President Jagdeo as “Champion of corrupt Guyana.”
Official activities for the “President’s Day of Appreciation” will be held at the Guyana National Stadium this afternoon.
AFC presidential candidate Khemraj Ramjattan described the grandiose celebrations planned as “obscene,” while questioning the events timing and voicing concern over the possible use of state resources. He said the AFC’s “Shame & Disgrace” initiative is intended to remind Guyanese of the negatives of the Jagdeo presidency even as “cronies who have made billions praise him.”
The party’s ad included a list of “ills and disasters to numerous to mention,” for which the party said citizens should credit President Jagdeo. The list included: the designation of the country as a narcotic state; the highest rating for corruption in the region; the inability to protect citizens; the police torture of a teenaged suspect; increased domestic violence; the migration of 80% of graduates; the “failure” of GuySuCo and the Skeldon factory project; the 16% Value Added Tax (VAT); and the president’s multi-million dollar monthly pension package.
‘A major distraction’
Meanwhile, opposition coalition APNU leaders yesterday characterised today’s celebrations as a distraction organised to divert attention from the failings of the administration.
APNU presidential candidate David Granger told a news conference that it was clear that the disclosures of US cables via the WikiLeaks website had taken a toll on the self confidence of the PPP and he described today’s celebrations as a “damage control event aimed at diverting public attention from the reports brought by WikiLeaks.”
He added that over the last 12 years, the populace has seen the worst violent crime since independence and noted that with the damage already done, the “circus at the National Stadium” is intended to provide entertainment.
WPA Co-Chair Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, meanwhile, dubbed the celebrations an electioneering gimmick to be used by the ruling PPP to present a constructive face.
“It’s a major distraction [and] we have to ask ourselves what is the real design of it,” he said, while noting that there is so much deprivation in which people live that “it’s difficult for them to say no to anything made available and anything they [the PPP] give belongs to the people anyway.”
He added, “I frankly don’t believe that a whole lot of people will be flailed by the event. It’s basically an electioneering issue. They will be mostly be singing songs of praise to Jagdeo.”
Juan Edghill, a member of the Organising Committee, told Stabroek News last week that the event was organised by a broad-based national committee comprising representatives of the religious, labour, private sector and other groups.
He said the aim of the event is to show appreciation for the president and the contributions that he would have made as head of state to the economic, social and political transformation of Guyana.
Jagdeo, who has served two successive terms, is constitutionally barred from contesting the presidency again as a result of limits he signed into law. “The same person who signed this into law would be the person who will be affected by it… and who has also said he intends to comply with the constitution,” Edghill said.
The Organising Committee, which maintains that the event is non political and not funded by the state, has said that the programme would include parachuting exercises by members of the Guyana Defence Force, gymkhana stunts performed by members of the Guyana Police Force, renditions from the Joint Services’ choir and presentations by all ethnic and religious groups.