Mr GHK Lall’s letter has prompted me to respond to my ex-colleague Allan A Johnson Fenty’s latest column where he asked “How come Lall and others feel righteous enough to condemn?” I am not sure that both Messrs Fenty and Lall understand some dimensions of the question posed. Mr Fenty would apply the profound litmus test of the Master “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Well, I don’t know why that should be the criterion. This depth of cesspool wallowing simply requires even the sinfully covetous to say ‘Hold on! No more! Let’s turn over a new leaf. Look where it is getting us and fast.’ I don’t know why the other members of Transparency have joined TIGI but I for one don’t hold myself out as a paragon of virtue. But I say it is time we Guyanese say ‘Enough!’ For me that is all that is required.
Guyanese are very forgetful people it appears. I have told a story widely reported in the press about the late P S D’Aguiar and no one I have said it to remembers. Maybe Mr Lall might. It was reported that during a shareholders’ meeting at Banks DIH (must have been before the ERP) he asked all those who had never been forced to break the law to survive to stand. On seeing no one getting up he said, “I should be sitting too.” He was of course not talking about thievery being committed by well-dressed men. He was talking about the need to get around the hardships imposed by the stringencies of those years. But the point I am making is that few of us are sinless. Mr Lall might not have stolen his parents’ sugar as a child, but I certainly did. I must admit, however, that where he goes into the murkier aspects of Guyanese life I agree with him thoroughly. There is a new code of ethics in Guyana that reflects all the sordid elements he relates. I was never part of that and I have never let thieves set my norms in life nor will I start now. The situation in good old GY puts in bold relief our grandparents’ dictum, ‘A thief is a liar and liar is a murderer.’ Ask Bo Xi Lai’s wife. And just imagine we used to think it was a bit of a stretch.
The other dimension of the issue is Mr Lall’s statement, “We know corruption is there in all of its untreated solid waste putrefying mass…we inhale its overpowering pungency…” What Mr Lall may not realise is that what smells bad to him is perfume to the perpetrators! These guys belong to that group of the citizenry who think that it is not important how you get rich as long as you don’t pick up a gun or a knife. They actually think that it is being smart.
But what the nation might not know is that this philosophy is not confined to the politicians any longer. Getting rich quick by thievery is threatening to become a national pastime. Honest contractors will tell you that if you appear to be unwilling to get with the programme you are locked out of the system. It is also infecting the private sector. The culture of joining this or that club to get to the power-brokers so you can sell something to a company has been around for a very long time. It is now the shameless norm ‒ and at inflated prices ‒ in many companies.
But there are those of us who may be tempted to forget that it did not begin with the current government. It is the fault of the generation that produced them and it is also our fault. Why? Because we don’t understand that people will do whatever they can get away with. It is human nature. I recall during the PNC regime, certain people would make the remark “Just imagine, he been in power for all da time. Wha he gat to show fo it?” You get the clear implication? Small wonder then that of the lean, mean and clean only one adjective is left intact. (Naw, not even the ‘lean’).
During the waning days of apartheid tales of corruption began to leak out from South Africa. The BBC carried a programme in which they pointed out that it was only because of the forces at work that were resulting in a change of government that allowed that information to come out and that it was likely happening all the time. Check the website http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/ 2013/08/22/a-baffling-silence-on-the-long-tail-of-apartheid-corruption for a litany of corrupt transactions under apartheid. (The search got 9.5 million hits by the way.) So it is our fault. Let us keep the system in place where one party stays in place forever and see if we will ever see anything but the dawn of a new error. Weekly.