The most newsless event should be when Bharaat Jagdeo takes to the airwaves as leader of the opposition.
It is not that we expect him to suddenly incorporate the level of ethics we expect from public officials into his opposition but it is frighteningly apparent that he feels that there is legitimacy in mendacity and, by extension, public deception.
There are several arguments out there that see the political lie as inherent in politics – as in a politician masking the truth to prevent public panic – but there has been none made about the barefaced lie so we’ll attempt to address it and do so in the context of how it overlaps with the Bharaat Jagdeo opposition.
A few days ago, in response to the Granger Administration’s 2016 budget, Opposition Leader Jagdeo called for a budgetary review in the light of his concern that the budget placed a strain on the backs of the Guyanese people; demanding that the government to brings oil prices in line with world prices.
It is the brazenness of this faux concern that constitutes this barefaced lie. It was his deal, Jagdeo’s deal, with Venezuela that gave Guyana Petro Caribe and the conversion of currency for rice. It was under his nebulous tent of alleged governance that the hocus pocus accounting scheme was hatched – the scheme that siphoned money that was meant for millers and farmers to an Amalia Falls hydro project that had more practicality on paper than at Amalia Falls. And this reassignment, re-appropriation of public funds, took place without the dispensing of adequate information to the public, hence, giving the government way too much autonomy to field public monies.
Much was never said and just as much was understood about why the Jagdeo Administration, between 2011 and 2013, would suddenly rush to pay off loans that were not in in danger of being in default; concurrent with a sudden decision to expand the production of this new currency, rice. The speculation was that the government was attempting to reduce its overheads in the hopes of securing more loans, more money, but without any information from them, it remains just an educated guess.
To be fair, this rush to pay off these debts early occurred on President Ramotar’s watch but we know how unsophisticated he is when it comes to conniving so we know he just followed the directives of shadow President Jagdeo.
And what’s this suggestion Leader Jagdeo has for the government to change the restriction of the importation of vehicles from eight years to twelve years to give the middle class a chance at vehicle ownership? Since when is he an advocate for the middle class – a social level that has been crushed from the fall out of the economics that he imposed when he ascended to office in 1999 and oversaw through his party’s ejection in 2015?
Cars under Jagdeo were out of the reach of the middle class all through his tenure. It was his administration that imposed a standard 45% import duty, said that a car four years or newer was to be taxed as new and created a scale of CC’s and doors and rates that were so usurious, cars were more the dreams than the aspirations of the very people he now pretends to defend.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Jagdeo continues to raise very valid issues; now that he is on the side of the aisle where political cataracts dry up and politics becomes a spectator sport. Only now, when his view is unobstructed by that thing called efficient governance, could he see that the constitutionally designated Public Service Commission is subordinated to the Public Service Ministry which has contracted a number of civil service employees for salaries that are much higher than the non contract workers. This practice occurred, ad infinitum, under his watch, this bloating of the contract employee roster but back then it wasn’t wrong doing, just an administrative inconsistency- which the Coalition Government has inherited and is now forced to defend, as he he highlights its impropriety with surgical deceit.
And, while Bharaat Jagdeo suggests that the new Administration is only reaching out to some sections of the Diaspora, we should recall his clarion call and its strategic implementation.
During the administration of his party, calls to the Diaspora were concentrated on specific Guyanese enclaves in Toronto and Romford and Fort Lauderdale and Richmond Hill, with promises that were not limited to ease of establishing business and special tax breaks. And though some of the non targeted may have accepted the invitation, a look at the roster of business ownership in Guyana would tell a better story of who were accommodated more than it would about who were invited.
And this ownership overlaps with another issue. We may also want to examine the immigration of Brazilians en masse, their ownership of several mining operations, the issuance of citizenship to foreigners that does not follow constitutional guidelines, the stores of foreign nationals that employ under age children, the poor quality of product that many of these stores dump on the Guyanese consumer, for starters.
These are business practices that started under the Jagdeo administration and continued, unabated, through May 2015. They were not business strategies that reduced unemployment, or gave the economy a significant uptick. However, when delivered by leader of the opposition, it is sold as an economic panacea, delivered by the single party, the single politician who understands what Guyana needs to thrust it forward.
The appendage to the barefaced lie is public approbation, the need to be accepted as the savior. It is part of the pathology of Mr. Jagdeo.
Irrespective of agenda, Jagdeo’s opposition is working. He knows that his job is to oppose and if done at the right decibel level, with the right tone of vehemence, he will secure the political relevance he sees as critical to retaining individual and partisan power.
His ambitions remain a grainy mix of racial supremacy and singular dominance. His base still applauds his push for a partisan agenda not understanding that his motives are more self serving than nationalist.
Though we understand that the opposition will employ some official deception and that Jagdeo executes his assignment with enviable dexterity, we should not be prepared to just sit and accept any old lie, even if the government is not refuting it.
It is up to us to implement some braking mechanism on what we absorb from the media, filter the official deception and separate the spin from the barefaced lies.
And in measuring the spin we sort of get a glimpse at the soul. There is this thing about the soul that identifies with humanity; gives us a little more comfort that the lying is not for mere expediency but for reasons of political necessity. There are some moral strictures that we still want to see applied to politicians- at least telling us why they are lying to us, not just decapitating facts and sharing them with surgical deceit. We know it’s the game of politics but we still want a politician with that soul, who recognizes that he is still one of us and will not be so consumed with faking that he is of no political good.
This is why, when Bharaat Jagdeo opposes just for the heck of it, serves up those bare faced lies that even he laughs at while delivering, engages in public deception, we just can’t let it go, act like we accept lies and deceit as business as usual.
We have an obligation to speak, even when our government chooses not to.
In our political world we still demand moral imperatives.