To address the political fallout of the Brian Tiwari association with the Granger Administration we would have to first look at the former regime and the role it played in making Tiwari one of Guyana’s billionaires.
As First Friend of President Jagdeo, Tiwari remained heir to all contracts, highest in contract pecking order, leaving what was less lucrative behind for those who stood at the lower end of the feeding trough of tax payers’ dollars.
Through these connections, BK Enterprise was allowed to practice imitation engineering, dabble in technology that befuddled the company because its engineering prowess was as manufactured as the excellence the Jagdeo and Ramotar regimes pretended that it had – by allowing it to continue building wharves that floated away, roads that seemed to hatch potholes, amongst other projects with similarly deleterious outcomes.
Yet Tiwari’s contracts were never reviewed, never revoked because of these very demonstrable acts of incompetence and business proceeded as was typical under PPP governance with Tiwari, the consummate political ally, steering his receipt of undeserved tax payers’ dollars through a maze of financial streams that rewarded those who rewarded him.
For this, he continued to be gifted without merit, even with the country’s national honor, The Golden Arrow of Achievement and an honorary diplomatic appointment as Consul to Spain.
The general public remained unimpressed.
The consensus was that Brian Tiwari was thriving because he was allowed to engage in business practices that were patently unfair and blatantly in contravention of good order. His award of the Golden Arrow of Achievement was seen as just another gratuitous bestowment of honor, sacrilegious, a desecration of a level of authority by a government that had an inherent discomfiture with the sophistication of governance and in the eyes of most people, he remained the beneficiary of an anarchic system that lacked moral fiber, a system that was so obstreperous that it made, even this Brian Tiwari, Honorary Consul to Spain.
Tiwari may have been no engineer but he was certainly a betting man and was hedging his political allegiance against his wealth and the needs of politicians. His contribution to the two major political parties is no secret. His JAG Aviation was critical to transporting contenders from these two parties to areas not easily accessible by ground during the last political campaign and his financial contributions to both entities are just as commonly known.
What is commonly known, too, is that Brian Tiwari was not offering assistance, particularly to the then Opposition, because he was a magnanimous contributor who wanted to give both teams equal opportunity to vie for office. He was playing both ends against the middle – ensuring that, either way, he would have had the same access to government contracts and favors after elections.
On March 21st 2016, when Brian Tiwari left the International Airport in Timehri for China, he was in the company of several of the President’s men, flying with papers that labeled him Adviser to President Granger. Inside information had already confirmed that the trip was nothing more than a political junket, an overseas picnic under the guise of business.The idea of travelling to China to collect money owed by China seemed particularly curious, as was the contingent from the Guyana Revenue Authority that traveled to explore the potential for the country’s use of security scanning equipment from a Chinese company called NUTECH.
Questions abounded about the nature of the trip, about the persons who comprised the deputation, about the reasons this disparate group of people would be making a trip to China; a country that was exploiting Guyana, taking advantage of the illegalities the previous administration had extended to them.
But, what was especially incongruent was the inclusion of Tiwari who seemed to possess none of the expertise that the Press and Publicity Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency said was expended on its visit to China. According to this Ministry, the trip was made to collect the balance of USD 5 million owed to Guyana by Chinese company Datang and to have the contingent from Guyana Revenue Authority check out scanning equipment from Chinese company called NUTECH.
That’ what the Ministry of the Presidency released – right around the time President Granger took to the airwaves to renounce Brian Tiwari’s status as Presidential Advisor.
When a President makes a public rescindment of an appointment, it is usually an attempt at damage control. Damage control is, essentially, an artful attempt to clean up embarrassing spillage which requires the coordination of speech writers, public relations personnel and political advisers to carefully select vocabulary that will offer a credible explanation of the issue.
Considering this, President Granger’s declaration came across as uncharacteristically clumsy, unnecessarily defensive, embarrassingly amateur.
It is not uncommon for business persons to travel with officials to foreign countries to assess the potential for business expansion at home and in their particular field. We saw a great example of this a few weeks ago when President Obama visited Cuba and took a cross section the business community with him.
So, if this is why Tiwari was on the trip then the Press release from the Ministry of the Presidency should have said so explicitly. There may still have been political fallout since Tiwari is known to have sold hundreds of acres of Guyana to BaiShanLin, the Chinese firm with a parasitical attachment to Guyana’s flailing economy. But by naming him as a group member before the scandal broke, the Ministry would have deflected any assumption of wrong doing.
In addition, had the President been given the requisite assistance to address this crisis, he would not have said his Minister of Business, Gaskin, is competent and needs no advisers. Advisers do not supplant competence. They offer advice and expertise in specific areas. Even Gaskin, with all of his competence, needs that. And he, the President, would not have named only Ms. Seeperasud as a traveling member of the contingent. His damage control team would have told him that omitting other names would indicate that he had no knowledge of the composition of the team travelling on his behalf and that would have indicated a lack of control.
Rescinding Tiwari’s appointment merely scratches the surface of the repairs that President Granger has to make immediately. The number of dire issues that have arisen in just ten months under this new government is creating too much unease, too many misgivings, too much equation to the actions that were condemned when the previous government was in charge.
There are rumblings about underhanded complicity with the out- going administration in several of the areas that are under investigation, grumblings about the perpetual delay of indictments pursuant to forensic audits, murmurs about the camaraderie that exists between those under scrutiny and their scrutinizers.
The good thing is, many still see President Granger as an integrous man, a patriot who wants the best for the country. And they remember his foundation; an uncorrupted leader, a tactician, a strategist, pristine and purposed.
But there is much apprehension about many in leadership roles, much trepidation about the course this government is following, much disenchantment with activities that are way too similar to those that were condemned when the country was misgoverned by the previous administration.
President Granger has to do more than rescind Tiwari’s appointment, more than renounce his designation as a political adviser, especially, if, according to him, he knew nothing of these appointments, that Tiwari was wearing these hats.
Nobody is asking for him to be hyper-presidential but if the past few days account for anything, they have underlined the need for him to revisit some of his strategies with alacrity and credibility.
It would certainly be in the interest of the longevity of this coalition for him to act soon and not wait for a profound political crisis.
That one he may not be able to rescind.