Having read Minister Jaipaul Sharma’s letter which was published in the Stabroek News edition on Friday, August 17, 2018, captioned, `WPA’s nonsensical proposal for cash transfers comes on the back of the miserable failure of its members to deliver in the gov’t’, I was forced to come to conclude ”that who the Gods wish to destroy they first made mad”. It is unfortunate that what ought to be a meaningful national debate on cash transfers to Guyanese households has degenerated into a political cuss out by a functioning government minister and leader of an APNU member party.
If the nastiness that was espoused in the minister’s letter had originated from the PPP, in the context of that party’s political culture and real politics in Guyana, it would have been understandable and expected. The fact that it came from the leader of a member party of the APNU and a minister of the coalition government that has committed to a new political culture, leaves much to be desired. It is not the political culture of the WPA nor is it mine, to engage in acts of deception, disinformation, and willful misrepresentation in an effort at scoring political points in public discourse. In keeping with that tradition, I will refrain from indulging like Minister Sharma, in gutter politics. WPA supporters over the years have come to expect better from those they have empowered.
Anyone, including the most deficient in the Queen‘s language who would have read my letter, which was published in Stabroek News and Guyana Times on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, would have noted that I had said “..Dr. Thomas and the WPA welcome the spirited debate that has emerged so far in response to the proposal,..”, and, I personally, appreciated the interest shown, but was disappointed with the “tactics” used by some critics, including government officials, in not addressing the proposal honestly. How clearer can one be? This observation, the minister with his infinite wisdom interpreted to mean that I am against persons who disagree with the proposal. The minister has clearly demonstrated that he lacks the discipline which he demands of others. This is indeed unfortunate for someone holding high office in the government of the APNU+AFC.
Minister Sharma most likely was aware, but chose to ignore the fact that both ProfessorThomas and the WPA have stated at the time of making the proposal that we do not expect it to receive automatic support from everyone and that we expected there will be pushbacks from some quarters. We never expected acceptance of the proposal without a struggle since our understanding of history informs us that in class societies, the poor and the powerless have to fight for economic and social improvements in their lives, whether money is available or not.
Sharma is on record as saying that Thomas’ proposal is a “wild” idea. In doing so he demonstrated his ignorance on the subject and he did so in spite of the fact that cash transfers are done in many countries.
His contention that SARA was given to the WPA is madness and a great disservice to the President and government. What the minister has done is to provide the opposition, and detractors of the nation’s assets recovery efforts the ammunition to discredit SARA. In doing so Jaipaul Sharma has demonstrated that in his capacity as Minister, he is a danger to the coalition and government.
It will be remiss of me not to point out the implicit racism in the minister’s missive when he said that “it might have been good sense for Professor Thomas to also recognize the inhumane conditions imposed on indentured laborers imported from India and elsewhere to undertake the equally backbreaking work done by the then emancipated slaves.” What has prompted Sharma to this position when it is known that at no time during Professor Thomas’ proposal for cash transfers did he raise the question of African enslavement as a factor in support of cash transfers. Sharma’s subsequent statement is instructive in understanding his motive. After falsely accusing Clive Thomas of making more than 4,000 sugar workers redundant, the minister asked, “ ..would the redundant sugar workers be the first or last on the list to receive the US$5,000 cash transfers?” Again, why this question? Is the Minister fearful that the coalition government will discriminate against sugar workers the majority of whom are Indians? Why the race card Mr. Minister?
Minister Shama seems to have a grouse with the government and President for their failure to implement policies that he feels would have effectively addressed poverty in the nation. To all appearances he doesn’t have the political backbone, to “detail” his concerns to the President but chooses instead, to achieve his goal by hiding behind criticisms of the WPA and in the process, indirectly attacking the administration in which he has a dominant role, for its perceived failures. He accused the regime of failing to implement the following: (1) re-establish GAIBANK; (2) the Small Business Act 2004; and (3) Small Business Development Fund. He argues that the WPA should have raised these matters in the government, but an examination of the very matters will show that they fall within the portfolio of his ministry. What has prevented the minister and his party from championing these policy measures in and out of the government?
The minister in making public his subjective assessment of the performance of fellow minister – Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, and his self-serving claim that WPA members employed in the administration have failed to deliver, has now opened the doors for calls by other member parties of the coalition for public examination of the performance of all government ministers and functionaries in the administration. Minister Sharma’s reckless utterances can result in tit for tat.
I want to use this opportunity to remind Minister Sharma that he is not known as someone who possesses the reputation of a fighter. Evidence of his weakness is in the record of the tenth Parliament and the decision he made to abandon the APNU after former Education Minister, Priya Manickchand, responded to allegations he made against her by raising matters pertaining to an offence that was allegedly committed by a close member of his family. Minister Sharma, you did not have the testicular fortitude to stay and fight the PPP/C in Parliament in spite of the persuasive arguments and encouragement why you should not resign by then Opposition Leader David Granger and others. You resigned and only returned to the APNU fold after you knew victory in the 2015 elections was assured. You, who ran in the face of an assault by the PPP, now dare to attack persons whose history of struggle and defiance against brutalities of the worst kind are well known.
Minister Jaipaul Sharma for your knowledge, Professor Clive Thomas, and the WPA when we decided to go public on the matter of cash transfers of oil revenue to households throughout Guyana: we did so fearlessly, fully aware that we may have offended some of our partners in the APNU and in the coalition government. We, however, stand by the proposal we have made. I offer you this advice – If you ever feel the desire to make a statement that may be in conflict with the views of your coalition partners and members of the government, do so. President Granger may not be pleased but I am sure he will not dismiss you from your Ministerial position if and when you do that.
Finally, I wish to point out to Mr. Jaipaul Sharma, that unlike his party the WPA is not a family party where power is handed down from father to son. By the way comrade minister, you are squandering the legacy of your father.