Magic Johnson of Los Angeles Laker glitter and immortality and the encircled Guyana Gold Board in the same sentence? Could that be possible? Real? Relevant? The answers to those questions are: YES! YES! And YES!
Though what is articulated before the public today may take many off-guard, it should not shock. Far from it; because it confirms the culture of this country in all of its grave ills, as well as the men with the dirty invisible hands that have enslaved and hurt the welfare of the peoples of this society. And seek to continue to do so.
For comparison, I refer to an article from the New York Post dated May 29 and titled, “Defensive Magic Johnson blasts ESPN’s report head-on.” This was Magic’s response to charges that he did wrong during his leadership tenure with the fabled Lakers.
His first challenge was “Do you think (Lakers owner) Jeannie Buss will allow me to abuse employees? If that was the case, she would have called me in. …It never happened.”
In the instance of the Gold Board, I ask almost the same question: do Guyanese think that Raphael Trotman, the Hon. Minister of Natural Resources, would allow me to mislead the workers, customers, dealers, and prospective business partners and agents of this vital state entity? To mishandle the sensitive responsibilities associated with this pivotal foreign exchange earner for the country? To mangle the trust and responsibilities placed in me by him and this government to take this institution to another level?
Magic did not say this, but now I will. He did not say that as a black man (idolized superstar and all), he would have been quickly run out of town if he had done egregious wrong. I am saying that, as a stranger, as an unaffiliated political presence, as a disagreeable voice in government’s ranks-and as an Indian man that failure, wrongdoing, and that which is inferred to in the matter of a dealer licence would have been more than enough to be rid of me. To his credit, Minister Trotman has, time and again, expressed his distaste and abhorrence for anything related to racial taint or appearances; has insisted that standards and values be introduced and upheld. There was very little of those before. Perhaps that is why I am there in the first place, and still around. In sum, had I been different, I would not have lasted. And this being troubled, suspicious, all-knowing Guyana, my being on the take or make (or dirty process) already would have been part of the fabric of the culture, and rendered the Gold Board (and self) vulnerable and unable to implement hard roiling changes.
So what is the problem with the Guyana Gold Board? What is the problem with actions being taken there? Again, I make reference to the words of Magic Johnson. “A lot of Laker employees did not like that I held them accountable,” Johnson said. Now there is something to ponder, and to bring closer to the crux. Accountability? In Guyana?
In Magic Johnson’s example, it was employees. In the Gold Board’s situation, it goes farther and further. At different times, constituents of the Gold Board – directors, workers, customers, dealers, miners, and prospects – to quote Magic “did not like that the board held them accountable. That accountability extends first and foremost to me. Thus, I first invite and then I challenge anyone and everyone-this government, this opposition, this or that critic, all customers and partners-to hold me by the highest standards and to find me wanting. I dare anyone: respectfully from His Excellency to the Opposition leadership to whomsoever: check, explore, investigate. I will not shelter under privacy or attorney. Do your damnedest.
For the third time, I continue with Magic Johnson. Listen to him, Guyana: “That’s what my job was. …we had to bring about change and get better.” There is a load of dynamite: “to bring about change and get better.”
Editor, at the Gold Board that meant first tightening up on anti-money laundering policies and procedures. And now the key: implementation. That meant war. To hell with change and being better; nobody wanted that then or now. Who cares about being better for the economic health of this country and the avoidance of dreaded blacklisting. It is the same people who militated then and retaliated through the “industrial sabotage” of mercury scares. That was the existential crisis manufactured by those partners who work with the Gold Board, but this time to bring it down. To bring it down because of that and reaching out into the forbidden hinterlands to purchase gold. That was then.
Today it is about a mining licence process and approval. There is the inferential and the despicably scurrilous making the rounds, because the same agents behind the mercury scare are now influencing and pressuring to question not the integrity of the process, nor the award of a dealer licence. Hell no! That is a red herring. Who cares about that? It is about the proposed implementation of sealing of all exports at CJIA, Timehri to tighten up partially on smuggling and other illegal activities. It is about that horrifying change and the equally arresting changes involving documentation and compliance with export shipment demands that drive gold sector people to generate this storm. And to undermine the Gold Board (and country) at this crucial stage.
Editor, I submit that this counteroffensive by those disturbed by this particular change, this specific attempt towards getting better and being better is what has unleashed the furies of hell, through the convenient cover of a dealer licence approval. Relatedly, this week Guyana fields a delegation at the CFATF conference in Trinidad. The requirements are grueling; the country has to do more; the warnings are grim.
Meanwhile, at home, there is the covert resistance to measures about to be enforced, and others on the way. The invisible hands of gold commerce wage war through the spotlight on a dealer licence for a man. He is not the problem. The Gold Board directorate, management, and their strategies and operations are the problems. And that is why there is this dealer development. Mercury agitation was sponsored last year. And so, too, is this scrutiny on a process that was endeavoured to be undermined just last year with the last dealer. That one took on racial and political undertones, but away from the public glare. That prospective dealer prevailed. No one questioned openly any process then.
But today, while using the same criteria and identical standards, another is dissected publicly, and the Gold Board with it. As said before, this is bigger than him. This is about the visions and obligations of the Gold Board to change and to be better. This country had better be. Regardless of who is in power, regardless of who stands in opposition. Regardless of who leads the Gold Board.
Guyana Gold Board