APNU+AFC have no grounds to call anyone unpatriotic

Dear Editor,

During last week much discussion and debate were generated by an advertisement calling on investors not to invest in Guyana. In the process a lot of name-calling took place. Government ministers and their sympathizers levelled charges of unpatriotic persons and unpatriotic newspapers for publishing that paid advertisement.

On the other hand we saw those defending the ad relying on the freedom of expression argument.

While we must not dismiss the defence out of hand, let me say at the outset that I would not have published such an ad. Not because I think it is unpatriotic. Indeed, in certain circumstances it could be very patriotic. Recall that the Freedom Fighters in South Africa and their supporters internationally called for a boycott of South African goods and for investors to pull out of that country during the apartheid regime. That was most patriotic. While it is true that discrimination is practised by this APNU+AFC regime, I believe that we have not reached the stage to call for a boycott. I would not have published the ad, therefore, because it would hurt ordinary people seriously and unnecessarily.

My problem now is with those in the regime describing those who published the ad and the persons responsible for it being described as unpatriotic. They have done worse than that advertisement to harm our country both in and out of government. Therefore, they have absolutely no moral right to describe that incident as being unpatriotic.

Since the year 2012, the APNU and AFC legislators did everything in their power to sabotage the social and economic life in Guyana. Recall their attempt in 2012 to slash the budget. It was almost all the developmental projects which were involved, big and small, that they attempted to cut. They voted to cut the total capital budget from the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs. They also voted to cut the budget of the Ministry of Works in dealing with important infrastructural projects. This included airstrips for the interior districts. This was not only an attack on the Amerindian community but on the economy. It was a broadside against the tourism sector, an area with great potential. They voted against the line item to pay contracted workers and against the budget for the Office of the President.

Those same persons who are now at the highest levels of government voted against the passing of the Anti-Money Laundering Bill. That was an attack on the heart of the economy, the financial sector. It would have got Guyana blacklisted by the international community and made it almost impossible to conduct foreign trade.

We must not forget that it is those same persons who voted against the Amaila Falls Hydro project. That project would have allowed Guyana to have cheap electricity to industrialize this country and create thousands of new highly skilled jobs. It was their daily condemnation of the Amaila Falls project and the then opposition’s vote against the project in the National Assembly that chased the Blackstone Company from our shores.  That company is one of the largest if not the largest investment companies in the world and it is quite likely that continued association with Blackstone would have led to more job creating projects being directed into our country.  The company recently completed a billion dollar project in Uganda.

It is apposite to look at their attitude to the airport project as well. When in opposition, they had at one time voted money for the new airport project to begin. The next year, after the PPP/C administration had gone into a contractual arrangement with China Harbour, the APNU+AFC members of the National Assembly voted against funds to continue the project. The PPP/C government had to rely on the court.

On coming to office, the APNU+AFC members changed their position by 180 degrees.

They immediately said that they needed US$65 million more to pay the contractors. The PPP/C made a lot of noise about this pointing out that we had a signed contract, it was a turnkey contract to deliver a new airport for US$150 million. Even though they inherited a signed turnkey contract the regime changed it to the disadvantage of our country and people.

Instead of a new airport with eight ports for planes to moor, we will have a refurbished airport with only two ports ‒ all of this at the same price of US$150 million. Should a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) be set up to investigate?

We must also not forget that it was those very same people who attacked the Marriott Hotel project that was also conceived and implemented to push tourism. They picketed the area when the hotel was being officially opened while the investors were here and made public pronouncements to turn the hotel into a hospital.  In fact, the hotel was to have a casino which would have made the hotel hugely profitable, but they chased once more investors from these shores.

They also abandoned the building of a specialty hospital that would have done heart bypass operations, provided treatment for cancer and a slew of other services. It would have had other great benefits to our nation.

Added to this the coalition is causing thousands to lose their jobs in the sugar industry. Already, many have lost jobs in forestry and other sectors. No jobs are being created, rather, jobs are being destroyed. People are being made poor daily.

At the same time, they are destroying the professionalism in our security forces. The Police Force is being turned into an arm of the PNC/APNU and SOCU and SARA are instruments of political forces. They are mainly occupied in harassing perceived political opponents.

Clearly, therefore, the leaders of APNU+AFC have absolutely no moral ground to call anyone anti-national or unpatriotic. By their own actions and performance they have done far more damage to our country than that one advertisement could ever do.

Yours faithfully,

Donald Ramotar

Former President

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