By Dr. Tara Singh
Any political party or coalition that gets into power through “lies and deception” is bound to have these as its main ally in governance.
Since the PNC-dominated coalition faithfully embraces these devious qualities, they would continue nonchalantly on this slippery track. The logic is simple.
Once anyone tells a lie he/she has to tell more lies to cover up for the previous lies. It was the litany of lies and deception that got the coalition into power, and these are now being deployed to ensure their (coalition) continuance in power.
Lies and deception are the pre-requisites to dictatorship. I and others had warned about the emergence of a dictatorship during the 2015 general elections campaign should the coalition prevail at the polls. I indicated that if the PNC dominated coalition gets into power, they will quickly militarize the state and establish a dictatorship. For a significant portion of PPP supporters (an estimated 12% of PPP voters) the barrage of lies and deception ensnared them into voting for the PNC-dominated coalition. The promise of $(G) 9,000 a bag for paddy and a 20% pay hike for sugar workers were irresistible to these voters. Now they are licking their wounds, and paying a high price for having jumped onto the “lies and deception” train.
In Queens, New York City at a coalition meeting in early 2015, David Granger tried to distance himself from former dictator Forbes Burnham. When asked about his association with his idol, David Granger he pungently retorted: “I am no Burnham; I am David Granger!” In less than 3 years following that pronouncement, he revealed (what many people had already known), his true character at a PNC Convention in Atlanta Georgia, USA where he categorically stated his embrace of Burnhamism as his ideology. It’s not that he has changed his position. Rather, it was another case of deception.
At that same meeting in New York, his protégé Moses Nagamootoo proclaimed that he is not an Indian. Naga was trying to woo Black confidence and support for his position as the Prime Ministerial candidate. Yet, later when he visited Chennai, India, as Prime Minister, he proudly asserted that he is a Madrasi Indian and was later conferred with an honorary degree. This pattern of behavior exposes the sheer opportunism of both men.
I will focus on a few of the more recent lies. Why did it take over one year to admit that Exxon gave the government a $(US) 18-20 million signing bonus? Had it not been for Chris Ram’s diligence, Guyanese would have still been in the dark? After Ram’s disclosure, the government continued to deny that they ever received a signing bonus. Finance Minister Winston Jordan said that was “a figment of the imagination.” In early December 2017, there was a leaked letter from the Financial Secretary to the Governor of the Central Bank which acknowledged the issuance of the bonus. After the leaked letter was publicized, the Exxon representative in Guyana subsequently admitted that they gave the $(US) 18 million bonus to the government to spend however they wanted. Why did Exxon also keep this a secret? Was this bonus going to be siphoned off by government ministers and other top officials?
Granger claimed that the bonus was set aside to help fund a resolution of the border issue with Venezuela and that for security reasons, disclosure was not possible. Did he also intend to spend bonus money on an expansion of the army? Now that disclosure has been made, could Granger tell us what security risk is at stake? This is just another example of telling another lie to cover up a previous lie. Sase Singh pointed out the folly in Granger’s position when Sase claims that there are enough foreign exchange reserves ($(US) 560 million) from which they could draw down to pay for litigation regarding the Guyana-Venezuela border dispute. Sase further indicated that huge sums might have to be paid to their preferred lawyers, with the expectation that they (government operatives) would receive kickbacks from those lawyers. A similar situation might arise with the allocation of $(US) 68 million to promote Black welfare, but the principals are not yet known. Has the government allocated any special funds for the indigenous people, the Amerindians, who have the highest poverty level (30 %+) in Guyana?
Now, Granger has also accepted responsibility for the opening of the account at the Bank of Guyana (BoG) and that not all ministers were aware of the transaction. However his account was contradicted in Parliament on December 14, 2017 by Carl Greenidge who said that the full Cabinet is aware of this transaction and that this body also gave approval for the creation of a special account at the BoG. Again, the government officials are telling different stories which render their statements untenable. They are in this fix because of their propensity to lie. Although Granger took responsibility for this scandal, he has failed to apologize to the country. He is protecting Raphael Trotman, Winston Jordan, Carl Greenidge and Joseph Harmon and others from any present or future litigation. Granger cannot be prosecuted (Article 182 of the Constitution) for any wrong doing that may have committed during his term of office.
However, the more important question is: “was the Cabinet decision to open the special account legal/ constitutional?” That act of the Granger administration was a breach of the constitution (Title 8) which stipulates that all revenues should be paid directly into the Consolidated Fund. This is another in a series of constitutional violations committed by Granger. According to Article 94 (see also 180) of the Guyana constitution, Granger could be impeached for a pattern of constitutional violations. The opposition should consider tabling a motion to that effect. They would need one vote from the government side. But that should not deter them from pursuing this path.
The Exxon bonus is considered revenue but it was not reported in the 2018 budget, neither was it contained in the Auditor General (AG) Report, nor the Bank of Guyana report. The AG has just begun a probe into this massive scandal, and he will also try to determine if other funds were given to the government as “bonus” by Exxon, and stashed away in other secret accounts, either locally or overseas.
The Parliamentary Opposition has accused the government of blocking scrutiny on the 2018 budget provisions. When Bishop Edghill, for example, asked for some additional time (that was previously agreed) to raise questions about dubious types of expenditure including the bonus, he was deemed out of order by the PNC aligned Speaker, Dr Bartland Scotland. The attempt to illegally remove Edghill from Parliament is consistent with this government’s pattern of governance, and it resulted in three female opposition MPs being assaulted by police, who has no right to be in Parliament.
Speaker Scotland later denied that he called the police into Parliament nor did he ask the press to leave. This he did as the contagion of lies and deception has also taken a grip on him. Edghill was debarred from entering Parliament by Scotland and suspended for 4 sittings. This is how a dictatorship works. Fear and terror prevails, there’s hardly any access to due process rights; might is right; the police and all other state agencies have to take instructions from the Maximum Leader, David Granger, or his designated operatives. When Bishop asked the police for what offense was he arrested, they said that it was based on an “order from higher ups.” I note that even during Burnham’s time, there had not been such an outrageous act by the Speaker of the Parliament.
The British High Commissioner, among other envoys, is fully cognizant of this massive fraud perpetrated by the PNC-dominated coalition on the Guyanese people and was forced to comment on it but was careful to use diplomatic language. By not referring directly to the $(US) 18-20 million fiasco, he was still expressing his disenchantment with Guyana’s poor Transparency International Index (TII) score of 34, which he considered unacceptable. This was a smart way to indicate that the Exxon bonus affair was an act of deception as well as corruption. In addition, there are more than 40 cases of corruption against the coalition, which the authorities have failed to investigate.
Having worked extremely hard to restore democracy in Guyana in 1992, all the pro-democracy fighters’ efforts have whittled away in less than two years of the coalition’s reign. Not many people are surprised with this carefully planned but sinister move of the PNC-dominated coalition to transform Guyana from a democracy into a military-type dictatorship. This transition has led to the destruction of the economy with all, but gold mining, sectors showing rapid declines in production. Unemployment has reached an unprecedented level (30%+).
Economic development programs have not been people-centered, neither was putting the country first, a top priority. The PNC-dominated coalition’s approach to development has one major objective, that is, to formulate programs and policies to consolidate their power as well as to retain it, post 2020. Since the 2015 elections cast them into power through lies and deception, they will continue to use these as well as other sinister motives (e.g., rigging) in the furtherance of their grand political design.
DR. TARA SINGH IS AN INDEPENDENT COLUMNIST. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.