There were few truths in letter

Dear Editor,

I have read with some amazement yet another letter (‘Greenidge ignores inconvenient truth’ SN, August 31) penned by Leslie Ramsammy, purporting to be a reasoned response to comments I made. On a previous occasion, Dr Ramsammy dilated on my moral right to express my views on the National Budget. He seems fond of assertions that no professional economist, not even in the PPP would defend.  For this reason I had not bothered to respond to his previous comments which were stronger on vitriol and misquoting than on analysis. He has not strayed very far from that tradition in his reply to my letters (really in two parts) published on the 22nd and 23rd instant concerning Mr Jagdeo’s statement to the youths at the Impress Youth Conference on August 11.

In that letter I stated that the PPP and PNC borrowing between 1957 and 1992 funded the construction of most of the infrastructure Guyana enjoys today and, that the sum borrowed over that time was not US$2B but rather $0.7B, the rest being arrears and penalty interest accumulated after 1985. Dr Ramsammy concludes from this that I hate the PPP! His main contribution to the issue of the debt and its rescheduling is that I lied about the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) and the Essequibo Coast Road being the outcome of investment by the PNC. He claims that they were both in a deplorable state in 1992 and had to be reconstructed or rehabilitated by the PPP. The PNC could therefore not have ‘given’ them to the nation.

The words are his own, not mine, and it is a most extraordinary basis for unequivocally accusing someone of lying. Why are readers being subjected to such silly word games?

A facility would have had to be first built to need reconstruction. All capital projects need to be maintained and rehabilitated, and the fact that the DHB had to be rehabilitated after 14 years is not a crime. Indeed, if you take his argument to its logical conclusion, the PNC’s rehabilitation of the BBP and Tapakuma irrigation projects in the 1960s ‘proves’ that they were not initially built by the PPP at all!

Absurd! Obviously the writer believes that he is dealing with idiots or readers challenged by the English language.

Let me take the time to react to his suggestion that I have no moral right to comment on developments in the country in which I was born. Not only am I a Guyanese citizen but I have never been accused of anything that would lose me my freedom. By way of general example, I not been accused, under the law:

●  of fraudulently obtaining state funds for private gain or brazenly misappropriating such funds;

●  of mixing my domestic finances with those of the state, or of

●  by a foreign commercial firm of facilitating the training of a private individual involved in clandestine activities in the use of equipment intended for policing activities:

●  of questionable involvement in any discredited project such as the OLPF.

I have not been accused of any of these things so I see no reason to be ashamed.

By the same token the PNC has never recruited, for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or another ministry, someone convicted of passport fraud or found guilty of the theft of a payroll by a military tribunal, or the like. Neither has any minister of the PNC government been accused, by a party member and financier, of running death squads associated with the murder of innocent civilians. I am not aware that any PNC minister has ever expressed publically or privately the wish that any area, let alone an opposition community be visited by an epidemic so that the electorate could turn to the PNC in the municipal elections. For all or these reasons I am proud to not be a PPP member. I have, however, never claimed to hate the PPP.

I will say that I do not have time for those who pretend to be what they are not and who preach hatred of others simply for holding different views or of being of a different ethnicity.

Dr Ramsammy also disputed the trend in life expectancy and our poor performance relative to the rest of the region. To make his case, he seems to have manufactured the figures.

Chap 19 of the National Development Strategy to which the government subscribed (ND19.I.1.2) says, “compared to other neighbouring countries, Guyana ranks poorly in regard to basic health indicators. In 1998, life expectancy at birth was estimated at 66.0 for Guyana, 71.6 for Suriname, 72.9 for Venezuela; 73.8 for Trinidad and Tobago, 74.7 for Jamaica, and 76.5 for Barbados. In Guyana, the infant mortality rate in 1998 was 24.2, in Barbados 14.9; in Trinidad and Tobago 16.2; in Venezuela 22; in Jamaica 24.5; and in Suriname 25.1” (http://www.sdnp.org. gy/nds/chapter19.html).

The UNICEF figures are consistent with this.

The internationally accepted authority on health status is the World Health Organisation (WHO). The most recent WHO figures show that from 1960 to 2010 life expectancy at birth in Guyana was:

56.3  years in 1960
59.7  years in 1970
60.9  years in 1980
62.3  years in  1990
62.9  years in  2000
66.7  years in  2010

The figures for the sexes are: women 70.7 years and men 66.7 years in 2010.

More importantly our world ranking fell from 127 in 1990 to 129 in 2000 and improved slightly to 126 in 2010. These rankings are all defined by the WHO as poor. (http://www.worldlifeexpectancy. com/country-health-profile/guyana)

Dr Ramsammy’s letter reflects just how bankrupt parts of our political system have become and how incapable of simple dialogue or honest debate leading members of the PPP are. By way of the virtual immunity they have enjoyed from the winner-take-all politics they practise, they believe that they may make any absurd accusation, and make up anything, however ridiculous, about a clearly verifiable phenomenon. No one should have a right to question their views.

In his reference to the DHB and Essequibo road Dr Ramsammy’s intervention is, for example, very much in the mould of Roger Luncheon, a sophist accustomed to entertaining himself at press conferences with ‘clever’ wordplay, who feels comfortable, for example, asserting that the absence of African Guyanese as ambassadors of Guyana is not due to racism but to the fact that  no Guyanese Africans are qualified to be ambassadors of Guyana. It was an astonishing reply. If the PPP can appoint someone convicted of passport fraud, an alleged hit-and-run driver and other perfectly inappropriate Indian persons as ambassadors, how is it that they could have difficulty finding Africans to fit the bill? I believe that it is indisputable that Guyanese Africans have their fair share of such characters!

I found few truths in Dr Ramsammy’s letter and none of them is inconvenient. His contribution tells us more about his character than about the truth. The arrogant and self righteous comments and brazen fabrications, like those of his President, give credibility to Lord Acton’s dictum, ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

Yours faithfully,
Carl Greenidge

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