The August 15, 2017 issue of the Chronicle carried a screaming headline ‘Tracking the money’. The byline went on to add ‘Sleepin boss, associates snared in money laundering probe…’ This is the government newspaper talking about one of our young bright and upcoming entrepreneurs.
Recently it came to light that the Prime Minister himself had instructed that he approves the articles in that paper before they were published.
This vicious attack on one of our progressive businessmen is an indicator of how low this regime has sunk. The Sleepin International was given a memorandum of understanding (MOU) by the PPP/C administration. It was during my presidency that it was given. Even though Mr Bacchus has been my friend for many years, giving him that MOU was not motivated by friendship.
The PPP/C administration had identified tourism as another area where our country had potential for rapid growth. It was in pursuit of this position that we aggressively worked with those in that sector and those business people in the hospitality sector in laying the infrastructure for its take-off. It was that policy that guided the PPP/C administration investment in several projects such as the Providence Stadium, the Convention Centre, the Marriott Hotel, a world-class Olympic size swimming pool, and an international standard track and field facility.
The PPP/C also worked hard on big projects like the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and did a great deal of work on our roads. It developed Ogle airstrip to become an international airport.
The idea was to promote a many faceted tourism product. Traditional eco-tourism was one. However we were looking at developing sports tourism, health tourism (that was why we were also building a specialty hospital to serve the Guyana people first but also to attract foreigners to use the facilities). The position included making Guyana a destination for conferences and also for education tourism. This is why the PPP/C government worked closely with all hotel owners and persons with tourist businesses, most, if not all, benefited from concessions by the administration.
In the case of Sleepin Hotel the government committed to grant a casino licence if the owner built a hotel of one hundred and fifty rooms. It was on that commitment that the owner of Sleepin put in his own resources and also sought an international partner to finance this project. This project will create jobs for more than three hundred persons. It would expand our country’s accommodation facilities and offer a world class service to its clientele. It is a bold and really good project for our country as a whole. Entrepreneurs like Mr Bacchus would be highly valued in most countries of the world.
Why then has the regime turned so viciously on the project?
The first reason is because Mr Clifton Bacchus and I are good friends. The pattern of this regime is to try to punish persons because of their association/friendship with opposition politicians.
Just recall that some three dozen landless Afro-Guyanese farmers from Seafield and No 40 Village West Coast Berbice were granted fifty-year leases to farm in the MMA area by the PPP/C government. Almost as soon as this regime came to power it seized the people’s lands. Moreover it attempted to have PNC activists in the area reap the people’s crops. That was prevented by court action. More recently the court ruled that the act of taking back the land was unconstitutional. They attempted to repossess the land because the people got it from the PPP/C government, and they branded those persons PPP/C supporters, thus the hostility.
We must not forget also the tactic of saying Mr Bacchus and his associates were being investigated by SOCU. This is the same means that was used to remove professionals from their jobs in government. It was the same method that was applied to try to embarrass senior personnel of the PPP/C administration. SOCU had publicly taken many former officials to their office claiming they were investigating one thing or the other. No investigation appears to be going on. Their actions were clearly driven by the APNU for political reasons. SOCU is rapidly degenerating into political tool for the PNC/APNU.
Another of Mr Bacchus’s faults is the fact that he rented his premises to the PPP/C for public meetings, discussions and other activities. That is why they are trying to discredit Mr Bacchus.
The main reason for this attack on Sleepin appears to be that they want to give the casino licence to someone else. However these persons still have not reached the requirements. They have not invested in hotel accommodation.
These persons in this regime seem not to care whom they damage in their lies and slander. Their vindictiveness is very pronounced. They don’t care about providing evidence or anything like that; they are just out to throw mud and destroy. It is this kind of action that will erode the substantial gains we made in the recent past and condemn us to underdevelopment.
Finally the attack on Sleepin violates the oath they took on assuming power. They swore to govern without fear or favour, affection or ill will. This act is certainly full of ill will. It is anti-employment and anti-progress, to say the least. It is also anti-national.
It is not too late to change course.