In 21 years no senior PPP official has been prosecuted in what has been the greatest orgy of corruption

Dear Editor,

Here we go again! The press has reported that Mr Rohee, newly appointed General Secretary of the PPP, announced at a recent Press Conference the establishment of an internal Integrity and Discipline Commission to, “ensure that members of our Party serving in public offices at all levels, maintain the highest level of integrity in the performance of their duties.” He also claimed that the Commission will investigate allegations of theft, bribery and forgery and that the Commission is mandated to investigate misconduct by Party Members who engage in activities unbecoming of a good member. These could include defamation and sexual harassment or sexual misconduct.

The only members of the Committee named so far are Dr. Roger Luncheon and former Minister Clinton Collymore.

Can there be any reason to take this announcement seriously? What has the PPP done about corruption since taking office 21 years ago?

Early in the life of their term details of a million dollar stone scam came to light when correspondence was sent to the wrong address. That case was followed by numerous revelations of other examples of corruption.

In response, to the growing chorus of complaints Dr Cheddi Jagan appointed an Anti-corruption Committee chaired by Mrs Jagan, and including Mr Ramotar, to receive complaints and take action on corruption by senior PPP and Government officials. Over the years the committee received information and complaints on a number of scandals including the following:

i. Home Affairs Minister receiving money for the granting of firearms licences – evidence of an exceptionally large spike in the issue of such licences was provided to Parliament

ii. A Minister’s son receiving a car from a contractor as a gift  and

another car from the T&T contractor rehabilitating the EB Demerara road

iii. In addition, when President Sam Hinds used the car which had been previously assigned to Dr Jagan in his capacity as President, Mrs Jagan claimed that it was a gift from a businessman and therefore Dr Jagan’s personal property. But no such gift had previously been declared as required by the rules.

Presidential Adviser on Empowerment Odinga Lumumba and Dr Roger Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, were implicated in the illegal export of protected wildlife species.  Mr Lumumba admitted to the offence and apologized. Mr Lumumba has in addition been accused of claim jumping of mining concessions and of  having illegal access to state lands.

Presidential Liaison Officer Kwame McKoy, the centre of several child molestation allegations, including one involving a taped recording of a conversation with a child from Linden, has been named as a member to the Commission on the Rights/Protection of the Child, in flagrant contempt of the implications for such action on the standing of the body.

Minister Kellawan Lall has been variously reported as being involved in incidents of drunken brawling, pistol whipping, illegal discharge of a firearm in public and hit and run driving. He has never been charged by the Police.  He was eventually sent as Ambassador to the Federative Republic of Brazil from whence he was subsequently recalled under circumstances that remain cloudy.

A Minister against whom evidence emerged of involvement in selling firearms licences as well as organizing and directing a death squad, was similarly rewarded with a diplomatic post.

The most renowned of the PPP Ministers accused of such lawlessness has been Mr Jagdeo who, amongst other things, illegally granted to the enterprises headed by Dr Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, an acknowledged personal friend,  extensive fiscal concessions. One of his last actions in office in 2011 was to illegally grant to that very enterprise, radio and TV licences without reference to either the NFMU or Broadcast Authority. Mr Jagdeo assigned to ten entities some twenty two frequencies, 17 of which were to family, friends and party supporters.  These included PPP member of Parliament, Dharamkumar Seeraj and several persons associated directly and indirectly with Natural Resources Minister, Robert Persaud as well as wireless cable licences to entities associated with Brian Young and Vishok Persaud, a son of late PPP executive member, Reepu Daman Persaud.

The PPP in opposition had bitterly denounced PNC members for supposed extravagance and regularly accused the PNC of squandermania and corruption.

Both Mr Burnham and Mr Hoyte took action in response to these and other allegations. Several PNC Ministers including Ministers Haynes, Mingo and George King were either fired or prosecuted, the latter primarily on the basis of PPP allegations (they labelled him ’Mr 10%’) and rumours; Messrs Hamilton Green and David Singh, were hauled before the Ombudsman and while that investigation was underway Green, the Minister of Works, was transferred to an office and retitled Minister of Public Affairs within the OPM. This was a hitherto unknown agency and the Minister was given no staff. In addition, several senior public servants were either fired or prosecuted for charges and allegations of seeking and receiving gifts etc. These included Mr Scantlebury and Frank Noel, the PM’s Permanent Secretary. These latter firings caused a firestorm among the middle class. The dismissals  nonetheless stood.

Much later, Minister of Agriculture, Mr Robert Corbin, was removed from office whilst being investigated for allegations of sexual assault.

In the 21 years it has been in office, not a single PPP or Civic Minister has ever been sanctioned let alone fired or prosecuted in what has clearly been the greatest orgy of corruption ever seen in Guyana and with few parallels in the region.  In spite of the sudden acquisition of wealth by PPP Ministers no investigation has been triggered.  Not a single report or investigation of PPP Party functionaries was ever released or published by the Committee Mrs Jagan headed.

But whilst the PPP has managed to largely silence internal critics they have not had the same success notwithstanding their efforts. Transparency International has classified Guyana as the most corrupt country in the Caribbean and the second most corrupt in Latin America.  In keeping with the role of the administration in promoting this phenomenon, the PPP regime has been characterized in the academic literature as a kleptocracy.

But even as this type of behaviour characterizes the PPP regime they use the organs of the state to perpetrate human rights abuse on citizens. Close to elections citizens have been jailed for years for treason and never prosecuted then Mr Jagdeo pardons one. There has also been several cases of torture including torture of a minor either in retaliation or in a bid to extract evidence concerning a robbery of a PPP official. Most recently, the sister of Minister Manickchand and a former member of the PPP delegation on the Elections Commission actually wrote a piece condoning the execution of suspects without trial. It is a policy which was orchestrated by Mr Jagdeo whose call to the armed forces to kill suspected bank robbers was dramatically followed by the execution of six persons who had not even been accused of a capital offence. Not a fortnight ago three young men were murdered in this way.

The class, moral and community implications of this behaviour seem to have missed the leaders of the Party for whilst white collar crime  perpetrated by PPP officials and their associates are viewed by the leadership as not worthy of the attention of the Courts or even of internal disciplinary sanction, those persons believed to have committed robbery and theft, crimes associated with the poor in urban communities have attracted sanctions.

Public alarm is not helped by the fact that the officers accused of perpetrating some of the worst abuses such as torture at the behest of the Government have not only been promoted but have been placed in the public limelight – accompanying the President on trips abroad. These decisions seem intended to display the PPP’s contempt for public opinion, good taste and our laws. Sometimes this behaviour backfires as was seen in the inordinate delay three former Ministers encountered in securing the agreement of the host Governments when the Government named them as Ambassadors.

Little wonder then that Guyana under the PPP attracts the additional moniker of a criminalized state. Officials use their powers both to facilitate criminal activity by others and to cover their own illegal activities. It is one of the main reasons why significant sections of this population are reluctant to sanction without additional safeguards the granting of powers more draconian than currently exist, to the authorities, including the Police, in pursuit of anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism. With the current widespread abuses of human rights and violence routinely directed against some segments of the community, the extension of police powers without additional adequate, impartial and non-political, civilian oversight of the power, would be foolhardy.

No one is fooled by Mr Rohee’s attempt to hoodwink the public into believing that these acts of executive lawlessness will be curbed. We have heard it all before.

 Yours faithfully,

Carl Greenidge

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