The Coalition was a form of relief
The comments below the online version of my last letter printed in Stabroek News on December 17 (under the heading “Assurance by Minister Edghill regarding an airport project”) have come to my attention and thank them. They give me as a commentator the opportunity to account for my actions.
First, it is very true that after twenty-three years of the PPP, the coalition is a form of relief for me. Why? I was one of the people in the WPA who, after the 1992 general elections that brought the PPP back to office and sparked an urban uprising, drafted in television commercials appealing to the people to support elected government. It included the words, “Fight with development plans in hand.” Mr Ravi Dev will remember those words, as he somehow saw them as some kind of threat. The death of Dr. Jagan made a few changes and eventually President Jagdeo from whom I had noted gave, “Give the young man a chance.”
Fast forward to the age of Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, the former finance minister who later dropped out had ordered the oppression of a Commonwealth study that had raised public servants’ pay levels closer to those existing in the private sector. This amendment had been a condition of the debt forgiveness granted by the creditor countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, and the Caribbean Credit Facility.
Apart from things that were not relevant to the subject of this letter, financial irregularities began to emerge and mainly attracted the attention of Mr Christopher Ram and Ramon Gaskin, who were well placed for information. My own criticism as I remember before the armed pandemic following the prison in 2002 focused primarily on the Procurement arrangements through which contracts were awarded and new wealth redistributed. By law, all decision-makers in the contracting machinery were selected directly or indirectly by the minister.
My criticism was frequent.
Under the coalition government of 2015, I did not keep up the same flow of attacks partly because I was no longer present and partly because I did not have the same flow of information. From mid-2016 to mid-2017 I was dealing with my wife’s illness and her death with her usual consequences. I remember asking Mr Christopher Ram also that the new government was also not entitled to what is called a “honeymoon period.” I forgot that he was an auditor and that he would be responsible if he saw slippages in liability and failed to call them out. However, I raised issues that were obvious to me from afar. I think the first was the big pay rise that the new ministers gave to themselves compared to the money offered to the masses of public servants. I asked in a letter whether the two groups were not part of the same economy. Another passing issue that I raised was the apparent reluctance of the coalition to approve the issue of a stamp to mark the 100th anniversary of Dr. Jagan. The third that comes to mind was the protest by some of us men and women of the old WPA over the attempt to send thousands of sugar workers home without redundancy pay. I had never seen the coalition itself responsible for the decline of the sugar industry that President Hoyte had hired Booker Tate to bring back to life. Mr Jadgeo and his fellows got rid of Booker Tate and embarked on a flagship Skeldon project that is now considered by some competent but unfair people to have treated Global Span as a pardonable disaster. It is not widely known, for example, during the Jagdeo presidency that industrialists in Guyana had to import molasses to be able to produce their goods.
I want to remember for the benefit of all concerned that I was never impressed by the way the coalition was conceived and that I said it in writing when I wrote more than once that I had never read the Cummingsburg Agreement, the coalition’s founding document as I don’t think that the signatories had read it either.
I now turn to my continued refusal to join the chorus for the Region Four fiasco in the March 2020 general elections. Those who read the letter signed by Moses Bhagwan and myself published on March 10, 2020, may want to return to it and seeing in it not only our premature call for resolution in the face of incidents of violence, but it was also a very good call. the presence of international observers at such an enthusiastic election is clearly welcomed.
It is absurd to say that those who signed that letter are calling for the integrity of our elections.
Speaking for myself, I am not jumping down the necks of subordinates. The mismatches in Region Four between the spreadsheet and the basic original documents sealed in the ballot boxes do not require expatriate comments unless those at home present in the process and monitoring it are uncertain of their own opinion. As someone with an interest in drama as well, the picture in my mind is of a bored vice officer now accused of crime, standing in a pillory while his elated accusers feel justified in calling out people who are passing to a stop and throwing stones at the wretched poor. This child does not. Not far away, on the wharves as if celebrating the end of one regime and the beginning of another, container ships leave our shores with tons higher than the white substance without any expression of complexity on the part of anyone. Let me explain. I started handling locks after sitting at the press table in a court and hearing a magistrate’s order to lock a prisoner’s locks. Secondly, I became very unpopular in my hometown because I dared to attend the funeral of a young coconut thief who was fatally shot in the act by a village ranger in the village countryside.
That’s one side of it. The other side is that one electoral list of candidates who didn’t spend thirty-four million dollars to hire MERCURY from the US has been complaining that its contrasting number of irregularities is documented and, in my view, used these accusations in an election petition now before the courts. Note that I have never denied or attempted to excuse the claims made by the anti-coalition parties regarding their observations. Do my critics tell me that, as a sensitive human being, I must ignore the fact that the courts have not yet investigated allegations of irregularities as prescribed by the constitution?
I say again, assuming I still have the physical capacity to do so, that at the end of the issues before the court, especially the untested election petition, I will offer my own opinion on the conduct of the major contenders in March 2 , 2020 general elections.