Questions of corruption dog this Government with determined persistence. The list of State projects and shadowy dealings over which huge question marks hang runs long, and problematic.
A few conscientious souls at Cabinet express deep concern about our country. A wide swath of the membership of the ruling political party, including sidelined leadership figures, also suffer sleepless nights from the moral and ethical collapse within the party’s upper echelon.
But the leaders who hold the reins of power,
influence and wealth operate with scant regard for public opinion.
Many scandals, whether proven or not, surround the deal-making arm of the Government, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL).
This outfit, with Winston Brassington as head and Marcia Nadir-Sharma, daughter of former Government Minister and now Member of Parliament of the ruling party, Manzoor Nadir, as deputy, operates virtually in the shadows.
Government stoutly ignores widespread public criticism of its operations.
Nadir-Sharma’s husband, Mahender Sharma, son of television station owner C N Sharma, and also brother of an opposition Member of Parliament, heads up the Guyana Energy Agency, now generating serious questions about its operations. Corruption has dogged our nation for so long that many fear it now gnaws the soul of the body politic, rotting away our social fabric. Just about every public institution falls under suspicion of one form of corruption or another.
The most serious corruption scandals circle around a small clique of political leaders. They either ignore criticisms, or blissfully carry on.
When Dr Cheddi Jagan Jr. informed the nation that a “group of eight” had hijacked the party and Government a few years ago, few were surprised.
Leaders who defected from the Party confirmed the Jagan allegation.
This small clique remains invincible, entrenched in power, unanswerable to the nation for their actions.
We failed to empower the Ombudsman’s Office; the average citizen refuses to find the Justice system a credible recourse for civic justice; no State investigative arm is active and available to citizens; the media fail in providing professional investigative journalism; public critics become disgruntled in their personal agendas; and most citizens remain passive, resting their hopes in migration, or some vague future change.
Our society functions for the benefit of a small few.
Those with the means and wherewithal to win political power, or dominate in the private sector, or with friends in powerful places, grab the material wealth that this land generates, for their personal aggrandizement.
The under-currents to this society would make for fascinating theatre. How many local business owners bank their wealth overseas, for example?
A few years ago, the small Consulate in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, processed around 100 “economic citizens”, new migrants to Canada from Guyana, who each invested US$1 million in Canada.
Much of this capital came from State contracts. So we have a whole class of new Guyanese immigrants to North America, who got rich here, with State funds, executing highly questionable construction projects, and who paid huge sums to escape this society.
In nearly every industry, we see heavy illegal activities, including gold mining and fuel supply. There are signs that elements of the robust housing sector serve as a money laundering washing machine. Thankfully, the society maintains a core group of leaders who take it upon themselves to act as the society’s voices of good conscience.
Leaders like Anand Goolsarran, Henry Jeffrey and a few others bring us hope.
Goolsarran has become a national hero. This man has for years campaigned for ethical public accountability. He works hard to see that severe financial malpractices that show up in the Auditor General’s annual report are corrected, with little success to show over the past three decades.
We have allowed our society to descend to a state of incredible lawlessness. We allowed leaders of questionable character to reign over the nation. We see men and women of hardened hearts, with poor ethical and moral development, attain leadership of our society, and we sit idle.
We see generations of our young people suffer from a national education system that fails tens of thousands, and we say nothing. We see our farmers suffer under the hot broiling sun, remaining in poverty, illiteracy and under-development, and we say nothing.
Those who attained power move from riding rickety old motor-cycles to driving fancy SUVs and wearing expensive suits. They forgot the rice farmers and cane-cutters who stood with them for generations. So the Skeldon sugar factory lies stunted in mess, while the cane-cutters continue to haul cane bundles to punts.
We suffer such terrible wrongs, inflicted upon ourselves, because we became victim of the national brain drain. When 89 per cent of the skilled people of any nation migrate, the society becomes gutted, rotten, hollow. That’s where we are as a people. Those who attain power over us are the ones who know they can take advantage over the rest of the society, which lacks a critical mass of thinkers, skilled professionals and designers of society, leaders of community.
Even in the opposition we see a grotesque lack of ability to manage the affairs of the nation. Parliament lies in such a state that the Members of Parliament cannot even clean up the sidewalk of the National Assembly.
In this new world where every country is designing society to welcome and foster skilled citizens, we refuse to face the problem. Instead we foster leaders who see the opportunities and grab them, revelling in the sad state of the society.
Even the University of Guyana, from where skills should come, suffers, with a multimillion dollar fraud at the Student Society recently unearthed. In fact, UG suffers a crushing debt load. And where’s the result to show for that money spent?
We must face these issues as a nation. We cannot allow the questions of State corruption, of lax public ethics, or dirty morals, to fall by the wayside. We must care. We must act. We must design a society where we produce decent leaders, men and women of good conscience and excellence of character, leading with ethical and moral fortitude.
If not, we face a dismal tomorrow.