The so-called ‘President’s Apprecia-tion Day,’ held on Friday September 16 must surely be the most brazen of a series of acts of abuse of power and political corruption in the region.
The real objective of the event was first and foremost to satisfy the delusions of grandeur of Mr Jagdeo and to showcase, in his shadow, his handpicked successor Mr Donald Ramotar of It wasn’t me! fame.
Even if Mr Jagdeo were deserving of such attention, this event would not be an appropriate way of handling an appreciation. It should be for the PPP and /or the private sector to host and bear the cost of the event after Jagdeo has demitted office. In fact, the justification for holding such an event at all is questionable.
The claim that the costs of these lavish blandishments and diversions will not be charged to the public purse is untrue. Many of the African participants had to be paid to attend and a significant proportion of others were transported to the event. The pressure on the public sector employees and trainees to attend amounts to coercion of the vulnerable; an abuse of power.
Mr Jagdeo has launched many initiatives during his tenure but whether he has done anything to be worthy of the national gratefulness and the accolades he craves is another matter.
What can be said is that he makes sure we know of whatever he has done which he thinks commendable. Iwokrama is a case in point. On the question of his achievements it is almost impossible to sit in the President’s office for as long as Mr Jagdeo has and not have done something special. Mr Jagdeo has certainly won a number of international accolades. All of them have been in acknowledgement of his loud championing of an LCD strategy. But his methods have often been found wanting. His public berating of the PM of Norway is a case in point. His vocal and cynical misrepresentation of the process surrounding the conclusion of the EPA negotiations and its implications may have made him a hero in the eyes of uninformed Guyanese but Prime Minister Golding’s undiplomatic and caustic reference to mendicant will haunt Mr Jagdeo to his grave.
So it has not all been rosy on the international stage. In Antigua Mr Jagdeo invited the 2008 opening Session of the Heads of Government Conference to turn their attention “to lighter matters,” meaning the Carifesta. Lamming, one of the world’s premier novelists, poet, social commentator and author of the classic, In the Castle of My Skin, who had just received a citation for the Order of the Caribbean Community, deviated from his script to react to Mr Jagdeo’s comments. The leaders who did not understand the significance of culture merely saw it as Mr Jagdeo did, as the equivalent of a collection of acts of entertainment from which selections can be made as in a ‘cake shop.’ Lamming bemoaned the adverse consequences for development of such ignorance. This was a particularly ironic episode, for earlier a national controversy had been sparked by the PPP’s efforts to take credit for the genesis of Carifesta. Poetic justice, some may say, ‘Moon a run ‘til day catch am.’
Another of his characteristics is petulance. He reacted in this vein to a eulogy which failed to bestow on him the title ‘visionary.’ The outcome is now part of the national and Caricom record and Mr Carrington’s legacy to us.
The WikiLeaks disclosures show Mr Jagdeo encouraging the representative of a foreign state to act against one of this country’s top public servants, not because he felt that the officer was guilty but in order to make it easier to justify not promoting that officer. A similar government alliance with foreigners has been helping to displace East Indian businesses from the commercial centre of Georgetown to residential and other districts. Doubtless we will hear more of the OPLF project in that context.
Whatever title international institutions may have bestowed several undesirable features distinguish Mr Jagdeo’s presidency. These include widespread discrimination, rampant corruption, the open criminalization of the state and its organs, an obsession with controlling everything and a belief that he knows everything. These are not patterns of governance or personal characteristics for which we have any need to be grateful.
Carl B Greenidge