It is the October 15th lead story of the state organ, Guyana Chronicle, that really sets the stage for the most recent fumble. It blared “Sale of Pradoville lands : Corruption charges coming for Jagdeo …five ex-ministers of PPP” .
Now, news of this nature is received with a shoulder shrug of indifference, a resigned sigh of nonchalance. Anticipating any steps past hints at legal action against those who betrayed public trust by giving the people ‘the business’ from position- posterior, is now political bluster; an appendage of politics in Guyana.
The same Chronicle Headline proceeds to list the malefactors, the perpetrators of activities that constitute illegalities, that create undue benefit for these men and women who were elected to be the public trustees – two of whom are Robert Montgomery Persaud, former Minister of Agriculture and holder portfolios innumerable and Dr. Nanda Gopaul Minister of Labour during the highest period of unemployment in the country, post Republic, arguably in its history.
Current Presidential Advisor and former Chief of Staff Gary best made the unenviable list of public officials with dubious characters but he was not the keeper of public trust, per se, so we’ll reserve that post mortem for another forum, though we will reiterate that he now advises President Granger – maybe for you to use as a measure of the President’s men.
There is also this political model of shared governance that was bandied about during Campaign Coalition and though there was no demonstration that the concept was understood by those who would have governed, ergo Coalition, it became a major selling point for those who were tired of fifty years of politics that thrived on divide and schism. Shared governance sounded like the formula to move the country forward as one people; as the progressive alternative to partisan politics and racial division.
So it is from this standpoint, published news that Robert Persaud and Nanda Gopaul, are ‘tipped’ to serve the current Coalition Government in capacities of investment promoter and Durban Park developer, respectively, is going through peristalsis in the collective digestive tract of Guyanese who are confounded by the prospect of this being the Administration’s decision.
There is some speculation that there is more political strategy than business acumen that drives these “tipped” appointments.
But there is so much more that tips the scale the other way.
Both men come from the demographic that has historically pledged to support the politics of race. But,why these two? Why these men who seem to be steeped in financial wrong doing and administrative mismanagement…governance with misappropriation?
Dr. Nanda Gopaul is, undisputedly, an accomplished trade Unionist and has served his party in several capacities from Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Ministry to Minister of Labour but is he not the man who was embroiled in the New Building Society Scandal; the one in which $15M was withdrawn from the account of Bibi Shamila Khan by a an alleged Compton Chase and the subsequent prosecution of Maurice Arjoon CEO of NBS? And wasn’t this the same Maurice Arjoon who, in 2006, advised his Directors to use the quantum of appropriation guidelines to determine President Jagdeo’s request for allocation of GYD 2 billion which subsequently caused only $350 million to be allocated, drawing the angst of Jagdeo as conveyed by Gopaul, who told Arjoon that Jagdeo was going to “deal with him”, and Arjune was subsequently fired without his pension and attendant benefits after serving some three decades? When Raphael Trotman hinted, on May 31st 2015, that Nanda Gopaul may have place in the new Administration, we reflected Gopaul’s record, particularly as an alleged emissary to allocate billions to the Berbice Bridge which was already a controversial revenue collector and failed service provider.
Now, though Robert Montgomery Persaud, the other choice, seems to have had political fortune befall him at an early age, he was not without his questionable bona fides. In 2011 there were several questions about his qualifications by A Partnership for National Unity, APNU and repeated calls for him to name the institutions he attended in the US and India. It was thought that his diplomas never existed, much more to certify him to head the ministry of Agriculture and when the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment was formed under the Ramotar government in 2012, there was even more trepidation, largely because Robert Persaud was seen as an extension of the Jagdeo tentacle, being his nephew-in-law and mostly because he would now be responsible for handling the USD 250 million from Norway to reduce deforestation…
…which would have caused the destruction of rainforest via the Amaila falls project and seriously affect the indigenous Patamona people who testified that they were not consulted about the encroachment on their lands, though Robert said they were.
Then Minister of Finance, Carl Greenidge, even questioned whether the Norway money that Robert was overseeing was actually making it to the Consolidated Fund. And, shortly after Rapahel Trotman took office overseeing Robert’s former portfolio of natural resources that he pointed out gold to the tune of 11.5 million, had been smuggled out of the country while Robert was supposedly watching.
So, it is with these references to character, these open issues, particularly the ongoing Pradoville land fraud, that question Raphael Trotman’s assessment on that Nanda was good for government and cause us to wonder why Robert Persaud would be a pick to handle investment promotion, when both men have pending “misconduct in public office”7 charges for purchasing Pradoville land well below market rate.
The Guyana Chronicle, the State news paper never carried any hints of the speculation but this paper is not the bell weather of timeliness and accuracy. But too many other news sources, irrespective of their overt political leanings, reported that these former ministers were being reviewed for employment, for it to be just media speculation.
What makes it curious though, is Minister Harmon’s denial via the State news paper that he had no knowledge that these men were being considered for jobs, that there were ever talks on the subject; this after a precipitous favorable -ratings fall over the controversial fifty percent pay hike, after unmuzzled angst over the failure to announce indictments of those members of the previous administration who are clearly mired in misappropriation and covered in controversy, after the continued embarrassment of being out done by the Opposition on the Public relations and Communications fronts, after general disappointment in how the Administration has relatively trundled along its course to its Manifesto goals.
There’s really no spin that could detangle this one, heading into the very critical Local Government Elections period.