Education Minister and Working People’s Alliance (WPA) leader, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine should publicly address his role as a director in the private company that supervised the controversial D’Urban Park project, says his fellow party executive Dr David Hinds.
“My thinking in this matter will not go away tomorrow and I implore my leader, colleague and friend not to hide behind the President’s explanations, but to speak for himself,” Hinds told Stabroek News yesterday.
Hinds said that while he was not speaking for the rest of the WPA, or the WPA Overseas Associates, he believes that the party’s embrace of accountable governance and political morality compels them to ask their leader to clear his name.
He said, “In the words of calypsonian Chalkdust to ‘Clear your name Doc/Doctor clear your name.’ I do not believe that Dr Roopnaraine has engaged in any impropriety, but when his integrity is called into question, he owes his party and the country an explanation. Dr. Roopnaraine has a history, political legacy and tradition to uphold.”
When contacted by Stabroek News last week, Roopnaraine declined to comment and had said that the President would speak on the matter.
President David Granger has said that Roopnaraine’s role was only to represent government’s interest. Granger said that the Minister of Education had committed no error and was only the representative on a company that was formally established for the D’Urban Park project. He added that the company’s establishment had not been concealed.
Hinds pointed out that he has not yet had the opportunity to speak to Roopnarine personally on the matter, but as a public commentator who is Roopnaraine’s “comrade” he feels that he should hold him to the same standards of political morality as he does other public officials.
He explained that from what he knows thus far, the president has indicated that Roopnaraine was the government’s nominee on the Board of Directors of the company and has insisted that he did no wrong. However, given Roopnaraine’s political tradition and culture, Hinds believes that Roopnaraine should speak for himself, by explaining to the public his role in the company and why he was party to keeping that information secret. The information about his membership of the board was recently announced by the opposition PPP/C and had not been disclosed in Parliament by the government during debate on a motion pertaining to D’Urban Park.
The question that has been asked by many persons including members of the opposition on why the project was never made public was also a matter of concern for Hinds.
“Why was this government or quasi-government company not made public at the time it was created? I am not charging any wrongdoing on the part of the company because what is in the public domain does not suggest any such thing. What I am suggesting is that government openness is a central aspect of accountable and democratic governance and the government did not observe this practice. It took the PPP, which has the worst record of accountable governance, to draw this information out of the government. I don’t think the president’s statement or explanation has addressed this central question,” he posited.
“The government should have revealed this information on its own and let the country judge whether it was prudent for the administration to create a company to oversee the project. There was not universal support for the project in the first place. So it was incumbent upon the government to ensure that there was instant disclosure. If there is nothing to hide—and I believe there was nothing sinister—then why not make the information public?” he further questioned.
Hinds reasoned that had the company’s formation been made public and the arrangements for the project disclosed, government would have eliminated the present scandal.
“Like many of the problems this government has created for itself, this one speaks to a culture that privileges secrecy when openness is the wiser and politically sensible way to go… government, must have respect for the citizens and be guided by political morality. Mistakes would be made but a responsible government should not put itself in a position whereby its motives are constantly questioned and projected as sinister,” he asserted.
“It worries me that the government continues to get itself into these tangles which suggest, wrongfully I hope, that it has something to hide. These accumulated mistakes help to provide space for the PPP to project itself as the defender of political virtue. But equally important, it saps the energy of its supporters which in the long run could dampen their enthusiasm for the government,” Hinds added.