The affront is that the corruption was hardly committed with any ingenuity.
It was just a barbaric plundering and pillaging of the coffers of a nation that was neutered by a system of government that prefaced its dictatorial style with the word democracy.
Every treasury in the country, thus, became a crime scene.
This gang of government took political marauding to historic heights under its swashbuckling leader who created a culture of fear replete with phantom squads and missing bodies to prove that they were not so phantom.
The culture of fear was established.
Political wrong doing was elevated to mainstream.
Thieves became role models.
And so we begin this tale of financial woe which may not have the happy ending we anticipated after cheering the announcement of Forensic Audits into the organized misappropriation of the people’s money and the undue enrichment of those who now languish in opulence gained neither by honesty nor inheritance.
It was under the Jagdeo Administration that Guyana acquired the unflattering corruption quotient that took the country to the top tier of Transparency International list of most corrupt countries.
Politics had become strangely hospitable to trafficking of all sorts and facilitated the movement of drugs, guns and persons with an ease associated mostly with deliberate lawlessness and substantial financial and material reward. It was this lack of accountability and rule of law under Jagdeo that turned bounty into ruin and Guyana into a narco state with all the attendant deleterious baggage.
So, now that Mr. Jagdeo seems, almost, boisterous about calling for the prosecution of those public officials found to be corrupt, we are flipping through the pages of the scrap book of corruption he left behind when his party was ejected from office in May 2015.
Government’s response remains disappointingly muted.
We know Jagdeo is an undisputed authority in organized corruption and his despotism over his tenure is testament to this.
So, we’ll unmute at this end because we do not believe that despots should have the last say when there is a legitimate government in place.
When Saisnarine Kowlessar, then Minister of Finance under Jagdeo, appointed Paul Greer, a little known head of Guyana Bank of Trade and Industry with just as obscure a work history, to head the Financial Intelligence Unit, it was no secret that it was merely to give the appearance to western donors that his government was attempting control the corruption it was thriving on. Greer was charged with oversight of two hundred and seventy five million dollars allocated by the National Assembly to execute the provisions of the of the Money Laundering Prevention Act. Not surprisingly he did nothing to advance the Act and was rewarded upon his resignation with a robust financial package for doing that nothing, while we still try to trace if any change was left over from the 275 million he oversaw with no success in advancing the Money Laundering Prevention Act of 2000.
It is the government of Bharaat Jagdeo that oversaw the receipt of Norwegian Billions to decrease REDD- Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and LCDS -Low Carbon Development Strategy – which directly contradicted him establishing deforestation contracts with Chinese Bai Shan Lin.
The Amalia Falls project was another shifty venture that was commissioned by the Jagdeo administration through a murky mash of financial agreements with China Railway First Group overseen by Sithe Global with an expenditure of USD 16 million for another failed venture.
Then, there was the Specialty Hospital Project involving a Fedders Lloyd and Surrendra contract with huge kickbacks to government officials that milked Guyanese out of, conservatively, 4.5 million.
And who could forget the the sole pre-qualification of Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation – owned by Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, Bharaat Jagdeo’s friend – to supply drugs for the country’s entire health sector .
The State Asset Recovery Unit has also reported that the Pradoville lands sold to President Jagdeo and several of his ministers were sold at a 2000% mark down. To this add the fact that under the Jagdeo government many of of his ministers and subordinate staff acquired wealth that was suspiciously disproportionate to reported income and that that wealth was in line with the funding that was unavailable to provide basic services like running water and clean environs, to start with.
These are all existing and provable examples of corruption overseen by Bharaat Jagdeo himself and if nothing else could be proven, the fact that he purchased his land at an obscene mark down could.
But a veritable mountain of evidence seems not to be enough for the commencement of prosecution against those who betrayed public trust and violated their contract with the public.
Instead, we have seen the current government express its concern that the deficiencies and malpractice discovered by the Forensic Audit may not be evidence that will stand up in court…amidst the over abundance of evidence that under the leadership of the People’s Progressive Party there was unquestionable mismanagement which thrived in a political atmosphere of systemic impunity and corruption.
So, is this a hint that the case of corruption under the Jagdeo Government will remain in the court of public opinion and will never have legal redress?
When it comes to this level of criminality, it seems that the Forensic Audit mechanism is not only relatively impotent but presents a form of protection for those who committed crimes above street level. Bharaat Jagdeo seems impishly pleased with this and continues his taunts for the Granger Administration to prosecute miscreants from his party’s administration. “We’ve made it clear in all of the audits, that anytime you find anyone who is corrupt, or has broken the law, you should charge these people. The State should proceed to lay charges against them. They will have to use the mechanism of the court to establish whether they are innocent or not”… he says.
What is the hold up in these Forensic Audits that began with such vigor and are now merely a fizzle? We remember the list of about thirty state entities, funds and national projects turned over to Ministry of the Presidency for forensic audit in May 2015. We recall the bold pronouncements and promises for justice. To date we’ve only heard of Jennifer Westford facing a judge and receiving the ridiculously low bail of USD 4000.00
A public scarred by repeated revelations of corruption in government will demand to know and when information begins to subside they will put the few details they have under the microscope to figure out why some criminals are more equal than some.
We accept that the audit is not an overnight process but why aren’t there more individual indictments against those who are found to have broken the law?
The government certainly recognizes when there is need for the Judiciary to expedite cases. In March 2016, after the historic prison riots, Prime Minister Nagamootoo, Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, Attorney General Basil Williams and Minister of State Harmon met with Chancellor Carl Singh, Acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Director of Public Prosecution, Shalimar Hack and Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan to address prison overcrowding because it was salient to solving a problem that was dire and immediate.
The prosecution of those who have used the people’s treasuries to enrich themselves is equally as dire and should be prosecuted with more immediacy.
So what is causing this hold up that has changed the anticipation of justice finally being served to that of resignation that nothing will be done?
Is it because there is more camaraderie than requisite professional animosity between too many on the prosecuting side and those who would be defendants?
Why are people getting the feeling that politics in Guyana is more a game of partisan survival and that there are deals made between the government and opposition to cover up misdeeds on both sides?
Is there truth to Jagdeo’s declaration that this Administration has no guts to prosecute them lest they be exposed themselves?
What does Jagdeo know? Does he have a key to the skeleton closet? Why the sudden investigative lethargy?
There is steady loss of faith in the hope and change many thought would have been evident thirteen months after the ascension of this Coalition government to power.
Call us the politically naive but we remain hopeful. We still feel that there is time for the manifesto promises to be addressed.
We’re not ready to dismiss politics as the sophisticated ruse it appears to be – provoking racial tension, keeping us divided and fighting over two parties whose priorities seem too partisan for comfort.
So we’re going to keep asking for answers and remain the devil’s advocate in these instances when a muted response from this Administration will not satisfy the goading that continues to come from Bharat Jagdeo who is suggesting that he might just be the skeleton warden.