Lawrence Williams told me of political interference

Dear Editor,

When people die, we owe it to history to record what they tell us. Their words have importance for the further enrichment of history. I am still at a loss to understand why President Ramotar doesn’t understand what is meant by “the poetic essence of history,” but let us leave that for another moment and continue with Mr. Lawrence Williams, who died last week while serving as Governor of the Bank of Guyana

Obviously we cannot publicly reveal what people tell us when they are alive if it can harm them. Last week in this newspaper, the venerated freedom fighter Moses Bhagwan published a letter in which he mentioned that just before his death, he had a developing relation with PNC stalwart, Winston Murray, and Murray admitted that the obligation of apologizing for wrongs committed while in power, is one that the PNC would not adopt. After his death, I did print part of a conversation with Mr. Murray on the nature of Mr. Corbin’s politics

Lawrence Williams was from a long line of fine, professional, apolitical, middle class public sector employees. Urbane, well-mannered and uncorrupt, he had belonged to a school of professional state servants that served their country with distinction without falling into the temptation of graft and political partiality. This country will miss this class of people when they are gone.

Their weakening started under the Burnham presidency though Forbes Burnham was a strong nationalist who knew that his government needed such a dedicated group of state employees whose only motto was to serve professionally. Despite the tyranny of Burnham’s rule, Mr. Burnham purposely cultivated this school of public servants and Burnham not only allowed them to do their work but intervened when party officials tried to take the authority of this professional class

Two brief examples will suffice. Under the paramountcy of the party, the PNC would have a party official in many top state institutions. In one case in Demerara Distillers Limited, the general manager was being hindered in his work by a party official. The GM went straight to Burnham and the party official was given a severe dressing down. One suspects that Burnham put the lower apparatchiks in state institutions for security purposes. But the intention was never to interfere with the administrative and technical functions of the professional people

The second example occurred during the construction of the President’s College. One of the party officials was just malingering day after day on the job. Burnham went himself. He stayed on the construction site and summoned the apparatchik. When he came up to Burnham, he was asked to identify his car. When he did that, Burnham with worked up decibels, ordered him to go into his car, drive away and never put in an appearance at the site again.

Under Burnham, there is no way a Kwame McKoy, Nirmal Rekha, Kellawan Lall and hundreds like them would be tolerated much less retain their jobs. Hoyte continued the tradition of an apolitical civil service but it was completely destroyed, first by Cheddi Jagan after 1992 and then by Bharrat Jagdeo. We must not forget, Jagan took party boy Roger Luncheon and made him the Chairman of the NIS Board. Jagan also put his chauffeur on the Co-op Bank Board

Lawrence Williams told me the political interference and harassment he faced as Governor of the Bank of Guyana was both subtle and open. He said a particular party man, high up in the Bank, who is a member of a PPP party group up the East Coast, was openly defiant of his decisions. At public events where the media was present this party official literally took over the press briefing as if Williams was his underling.

In speaking to Williams, I honestly felt deep sympathy for what he was going through at the Bank. This is the type of philistine leadership we have in power. And this sheepish nation allows these depravities to climb and climb to greater extremes.

 Yours faithfully,

Frederick Kissoon                          

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