President may be the only sober one regarding oil

Dear Editor,

I refer to the headline titled, `Gov’t won’t be ‘intoxicated’ by oil, Granger says  – international best principles for government sector’ (SN August 18).  That is all very reassuring and comforting.  But I have a problem; several problems in fact.

First, I will stake my own reputation (such as it is) to vest confidence in the president’s pronouncement about “won’t be ‘intoxicated’ by oil.”  My confidence is in his own sobriety and almost only his, whenever oil is the subject.  The problem is that Mr. David Granger, like the King of England not being England, is not representative of the entirety of the government.  If that were so, then there would be unswerving grounds for belief in non-intoxication where oil features.  Instead, and regrettably, the government consists of a lot of those same picturesquely attired ladies and gentlemen gathered over there in Sophia.  Truth be told, oil has already gone to their heads, and given them “a head,” as it is said here.  Now if the rest of the population is ready to believe that a significant number of the verdantly clad “won’t be ‘intoxicated’” by oil, then I say, God bless Guyana.  It is forward and upward.

Once again, I beg to differ.  There are many in this government (some over there in Sophia) that are old school.  Meaning that they have been long schooled in the great rewarding arts of graft, venality, and self-help, so much so that they have made those practices into a rich science.  They are greedy and some of the leading figures have earned national recognition for shady reputations.  Mark my warning: they can’t help but to be intoxicated.  Some are already inebriated today (cheers to fancy parliamentary sauce), but they hold their liquor well.  Steady ahead!  In more familiar Guyanese language, deh only sweet.  To continue with His Excellency’s choice of the word “intoxicated,” it is my position that some of these senior characters, even from this early stage, have been successful at displaying the reverse.  That is, they have concocted ways and means to take legitimate shop rum (petroleum discovery) to erect stills for bush rum (underground) business ‘runnins’.  I take liberties with the work of the Mighty Sparrow: where there is plenty money, there will be plenty love; plenty greedy fellers hustling, too.  It is oil involved.  Some just can’t help themselves; cleaner people have succumbed.  And that is as sure as there will be claims of hijinks in that election process yonder.

The secondary part of the same trumpeting headline from SN had the leader vowing adherence to “international best principles for petroleum sector.”  I paused on the subtle selection of that word “principles” as opposed to the infinitely better “practices.”  I have learned that principles in this country can be an abstraction, something best left to textbooks and warming speeches, but not for implementation.  Again, I extend full faith and credit to the president himself; but I shrink from reaching much further, as Mr. Granger alone may have monopoly rights to such faith and credit; he just might own the copyright.  But there is another consideration.

From a commonsense perspective, I take a bow to that ancient adage that the stricter the government the wiser the population.  Amidst all this utterly lovely chatter of controlling oversight mechanisms and checks and balances, I remind everyone that these are only as good if the right people can be found to enforce them.  Very specifically and sharply, that there are conscientious patriots on the ground who can be entrusted to dedicate life and limb (and honour) to make those principles come alive and work; work for the benefit of the waiting excited nation.  Thus, I must be the spoiler and ask: Where are they?  Where are they in government when formidable ethical presences are in such severe short supply?  I am ready to listen to incontestable responses, especially from those making the sturdiest and most attractive sounds on oil.  Experience has taught all Guyanese that principles, good intentions, and robust proclamations either have been ignored or circumvented at will and with skill.  Oil promises to be the perfect proving ground, regardless of who is in charge.

So, when I examine the president’s assertions, I arrive at this desolate place: the president might be one of the very few unintoxicated by oil.  In fact, he might the only sober one standing before the oil bar.  Moreover, he might be distressed by the lyrics of the song being chanted by his comrades (crude revellers all).  Those lyrics resonate like this: all is mine.  Aaaal is miiiiine!  Good luck, to all Guyanese.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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