The Jagdeo term is not yet over, but its true nature is coming to light more and more. It seems too that there is more to come.
Dr Randy Persaud, a high profile, or high profiled younger academic joined the President’s support group, as I prefer to call it, but has not uplifted its culture. His reply recalled old curses addressed to generations and not just to the supposed offender. Dr Persaud did not have to go through the discipline of scholarship to learn this kind of tribalism. We can all go to the neighbour’s fence and ‘abuse from Harry Right to Harry Wrong.’
A friend emailed me his letter published in the Guyana Chronicle and I saw that it had to do with Dr Arif Bulkan and read it carefully. If some people would follow their vocational training rather than their party’s standards, the political culture would sharply improve.
Persaud accused Bulkan of hiding behind human rights. I have heard Mr Bulkan only in the courts as a prosecutor and have not seen him as hiding behind human rights. I saw him in a capital offence reveal to the court and the defence, in the way they are required by their codes to do, evidence which was in favour of the defence. This was rarely done in the days I monitored cases in the courts. Moreover, a decade ago, long before his resourceful sister began to write about the not yet conceived Norway carbon agreement, he had offered assistance in a fair trial issue on the side of the disadvantaged.
I should like to be reminded of an issue or case in Guyana in which Dr Randy Persaud lifted his influential voice against the authorities in favour of defenceless Guyanese.
Dr Persaud’s letter attacked an article in the SN ‘Diaspora’ series by Dr Bulkan. The SN feature aimed at decoding some of the President’s real estate transactions that appear questionable, the kind of behaviour you would expect of some speculator, and not of a head of government and state expected to set a tone for the nation.
In his attack on Bulkan, Persaud offered no justification, defence or explanation of the ethical flaws argued by Bulkan. In the case of Parliament’s retirement package for Jagdeo, all he did was to point to previous PNC presidents as their model.
The article which offended Dr Persaud is signed by Arif Bulkan. Persaud replies not only to Arif Bulkan, who signed the article, but to members of his family. I have lived through many kinds of political attack. I do not recall a ruler spelling out the amount of financing for which a business person or company had allegedly applied to the government in charge of the economy. This must go down as a Randy Persaud novelty in the use of confidential information. It also implicates his leader.
Whatever information anyone puts in the hands of the government is likely to be shared among party writers. The less discreet like Dr Persaud will then use such information to attack the relatives of those who question the transparency of the President’s transactions. And of course the President owes the nation a duty of transparency.
Then, following the theme to which President Jagdeo is forced to return during the election campaign, Persaud accused Bulkan of inciting hatred and extremism. Of course Dr Bulkan has nothing to do with the incitement of ‘extremism,’ let alone hatred. I clearly recall the first event that incited extremism and anger. I have said this before, but the government has long ceased to feel. That event was the fatal February 9, 2000 shooting of ‘Blackie’ London with his hands ‘on his head’ in surrender mode. At the inquest a member of the joint services testified, “ If a person surrenders to the police and is shot, it is wrong.” The Office of the President blindly praised the action. The bandit Blackie became a folk hero. The fate of Blackie’s woman companion was not an official issue. I wrote at the time that a living Blackie should be held to account for her death.
One feature of the President’s land deals not yet raised is of interest to me as a villager. How did the front lands of Sparendaam, a post-emancipation village become available for gentrification by the new upper class? Part of Sparendaam Front once housed the transmission tower for GT&T. The police station and the post office are on that side of the public road. If lands were available there, why was the fact not known publicly so that perhaps Plaisance-Sparendaam people could have a chance of buying.
Dr Bulkan wrote, “Moreover, at a recent press conference the President admitted that the land in Sparendaam never went to tender, but was ‘allocated’ to members of his Cabinet who did not have land. However, standard government policy regarding the allocation of house lots under the land distribution policy is that beneficiaries must not own or have owned land before.” On this claim Dr Persaud, scholar and anti-opposition moralist, is silent, whether in consent or in shame we do not know.
I trust that the ownership history of these lands, so scarce in land-hungry villages, can be made public. I am sure that the cabinet will not mind making a full disclosure and perhaps offering redress.