One of the themes of Development Watch has been the constant call for building up the capacity of the State to implement economic development plans since private markets alone cannot achieve this transformation in an economy such as Guyana. Guyana’s present economic position is path dependent on events going back to the 1700s; events, moreover, that instil rigid coordination failures relating to the small internal market, dispersed population and high cost of production.
The Guyanese State, however, has been methodically abused since the Sophia Declaration of December 1974. Almost every developmentalist organ of the State was corrupted after 1974. In addition, the criminalization of the State took its form after 1974. I view the findings of the Rodney CoI in the context of the corruption and criminalization of the State. This criminalization and corruption of governmental systems did not start under Jagdeo as the great Guyanese economist, Prof. Thomas argued, it was merely taken to another level by the Jagdeo PPP which chose not to institute structural reforms, but instead selected to benefit personally from its inherited weaknesses.
Furthermore, by the year 2000 the PPP realized it had no serious professional, decent and credible police and security system to face the political-criminal onslaught against its East Indian supporters on the East Coast of Demerara. It took that criminalization and corruption to another level by linking up with narco-connected death squads to go after the political-criminal gangs camping out in Buxton. In the process, the PPP further destroyed state capacity and established the condition for a new breed of gun-toting bandits in the rural villages, a situation that was virtually non-existent before 2000. Failure to modernize the security systems and turning a blind eye to narco pushers have wreaked much damage in rural villages, a deadly legacy of Bharrat Jagdeo.
Most of the findings of the CoI that were reported in the media have already been known to the villagers. I have heard most of what is now reported while growing up in Houston; perhaps partly due to the awesome PPP propaganda machinery with its immense propensity to falsehood. But what I found astounding is why Mrs Jagan and Dr Jagan retained Laurie Lewis, who featured prominently in the assassination and subsequent shielding of perpetrator, Gregory Smith. The Stabroek News (Feb 20, 2016) reports there ‘was prima facie evidence that the late Lewis and other senior members of the Disciplined Services “had significant roles to play in the conspiracy to kill Dr Walter Rodney and the subsequent attempt to conceal the circumstances surrounding his death.”’ The PPP’s own CoI casts an indictment on itself through Laurie Lewis as much as it indicted the Burnham PNC regime. I believe the PPP owes this country an explanation why it hired this man to head such a critical system of government – the Guyana Police Force – after 1992 when there was supposed to be a time of renewal.
Successive governments after Independence have used the State and quasi-governmental organizations for
political mobilization, ethnic patronage and suppression of well-intended dissension. With respect to the latter, the newspapers report this week on what can be termed a PPP goon squad: Kwame McCoy, Jason Abdulla and ex-policeman Shawn Hinds. McCoy enjoyed a privileged position in the Jagdeo Office of the President. One of his tasks was to allegedly fling faeces in the face of a very popular newspaper columnist, Mr Freddie Kissoon, instead of pursuing a productive enterprise on behalf of the State. This goon squad will go down as another legacy of Bharrat Jagdeo.
From 2000 to 2015 several individuals from the Diaspora were under surveillance by the security system. These individuals, including yours truly, were stopped entering and leaving Guyana. It was such a waste of efforts and resources focusing on people who only have a pen or keyboard. Is it that the PPP was so intellectually barren it could not respond in kind with pen and keyboard, and when it did respond it was with made up female Afro-Guyanese sounding names?
These days it is popular to express nationalism and patriotism by erecting the highest flagpole and expending much effort in celebrating 50 years of nothingness. Yet in the first week of the APNU+AFC government they departed from Hoyte’s brief attempt after 1985 to introduce a non-political appointee to head the Public Service. Whatever dislike one may have for Hoyte’s involvement in the chaos and mayhem from 1998 to the time of his death, we should give him credit for trying to improve the government systems when he was President.
We should judge the nationalism and patriotism of the new leaders and those in the new opposition by their efforts to bring the governmental systems into the 21st Century. We must judge their patriotism by whether they can secure the present and future generations with a constitution that can better serve a divided country like Guyana. We must not get too carried away with whether leaders go to church and pray often or whether they can shout loudly in debates with little intelligence content. Patriotism and greatness must not be judged by whether the leader is Machiavellian enough to wrestle control of his political party.
The leader must have an alternative plan or vision for the criticism he or she makes. What are the alternatives to not closing Wales Sugar Estate? And since the estate will be closed what other realistic production activities will take the place of sugar? Are the markets already in place for the proposed fruits and farmed fish? How can an organization like NICIL be better deployed for the task of industrial change? Although NICIL was much abused and misdirected, leaders should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Is there something in the present laws that make industrial policies difficult to implement? What can be done to make the State work better with the private sector as part of an industrial policy framework? How can industrial policies be implemented without the accusation of favouring one ethnic group over another?
I feel it will be a great patriotic duty if the present leaders in government and opposition can find solutions to some of these questions. Reversing the disintegration of the State would be a very good start.