Our political id – that part of our political mind which is innate and instinctive and impulsive -should be unrestrained…
Then we’ll be able to process things at face value, not get caught up with political correctness and the swag of leadership.
We have historically been swayed by personality politics. This is not to take away from the riveting oratory of some of our past leaders or the bold lies of some who have been privileged to serve as head of government.
In fact, it’s this recollection of personalities in politics that should drive us to engage our id -that first assessment of the political landscape which we tend to second to the demands of political correctness.
We remember the eloquence of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, who delivered a finely crafted reason for the overhaul of his Ministry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the illustrious language – like “institutional mechanism” and the goal of being the “best in the western hemisphere” – the stuff that makes one blush with national pride.
Minister Greenidge himself is commendably accomplished, has an impregnable resume, enviable experience, unquestionable bona fides and references from multiple hemispheres by people who attest to his acumen.
So, when he appointed a convicted felon, Shamir Ally, as ambassador to Kuwait, we had to look at his earlier message; that well wrought one that espoused ambitions to move Guyana’s Foreign Service into the realm of integrity, from under the cloud of nefarious deeds, venal agents, an ignoble corruption index and a deplorable human rights record that was an inheritance from the out going government.
Minister Greenidge brings expanded accomplishments to the table so this rudimentary blunder, in him not vetting the person he selected to be Guyana’s face in another country, is abundantly alarming; especially troubling.
And we say this not facetiously.
This ministry has historically been a prestigious entity of government having been charged with establishing and maintaining relationships with political friends and maturely standing ground when dealing with those of different political view. The lineup of previous Ministers of Foreign affairs reads like our Hall of Fame of Intelligentsia – except for when it gets to Clement Rohee whose appointment as the country’s Foreign Minister to this rarefied group of Guyana’s cream of the crop underscored the callous disregard for the tradition of repute and rectitude typically associated with governments; as it was manifestation of the flawed judgment that has been a component in the smudge that has been PPP governance for more than two decades.
Clement Rohee, the country’s face at the United Nations General Assembly, in the capacity of Minister of Foreign Affairs, is infamously remembered for not knowing the difference between the Commonwealth of Dominica and the Dominican Republic – casting a vote for the latter instead of the former because he was not of the stock that Foreign Ministers are made of, was more a bruiser than a diplomat, was incapable of being substantially conversant on matters of foreign policy and, essentially, possessed the capacity to represent Guyana by physical presence only, when he sat at the table of international community.
When Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge, whose resume and experience seem to qualify him to sit with those who preceded him -skip Rohee -said that he was overhauling the ministry we understood because he has to exorcise the presence of a Rohee as a functionary at such a prestigious position; as the figure that diluted the carat of the post because of misfit government and imaginary qualifications.
So what could have gone wrong with this Shamir Ally?
What could have caused this eminently qualified Minister to blunder so fundamentally?
Several theories are proffered here, all of which merge into one: Deliberately Derelict in Duty.
We’re not into selling Conspiracy Theories but common sense tends to prevail when the actions of someone who is known more for intellect and for being well grounded veers curiously off course. We’re a little hesitant – just a little- to use the qualifier ‘deliberately’ in absolute terms but we do share the sentiment of dereliction.
We understand that a lot of what the position does is not easily quantifiable and that the Minister may not get due credit for a lot of what he does at the policy level. But there are some acts of office that are more physically visible and these are the things which bring Minister Greenidge’s performance into view.
Though Ambassadorial positions can be offered to career diplomats, or as a political patronage to party loyalists, it is done with the express intention of making that person the resident representative of the country to which he is assigned. So, it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that the appointee, at the very least, meets the minimum standards of integrity.
That would mean that the Ambassador Elect is not a felon.
The flaccid argument that sifted through rancid details to determine Shamir Ally’s guilt would have been a parody on criminal ineptitude if it were not such a pathetic display of partisan posturing.
What did the Alliance For Change – AFC-mean by saying that Shamir Ally, Ambassador Elect, did not deliberately engage in fraud at Acrodyne Communications Inc. ? Did they mean that the fraud he committed was indeliberate, cavalier, a result of some affliction of kleptomania? Or did they mean that his felonious escapades were the result of some external suggestion.
Their argument is that this guy took a job that had an inherent siphon to his pocket but Dr. Shamir Ally’s Linked in Profile reads like a game of alphabet soup. The fifteen or so letters that he appends to his name is indicative of a level of academic sophistication and that, coupled with the fact that he functioned as a financial controller, corroborates that he has a reservoir of knowledge that should preclude him from blindly following practices that contravene generally accepted accounting principles and specific dictates of the oversight body of companies that sell shares to the public.
Shamir Ally is more than well versed in assessing inherent risk, in assessing the strength of internal controls, in evaluating how susceptible the financial statement assertions are to material misstatements.
Shamir Ally did none of these things.
The United States Securities Exchange Commission, therefore, indicted him on charges of dissemination of false financial information in press releases and Commission filings in 1998, 1999 and 2000, inaccurate and improper cost accounting and improper revenue recognition.
In plain English, Ally fudged numbers and did so for ill-gotten gains. He was indicted for this.
For the AFC to say that Ally was unable to prove his innocence because he no longer had the access to the books is a logical fallacy that insults us to the core. Ally no longer had access to the books he fudged because Ally consented to permanent injunction and consented to pay a civil penalty of USD 10,000. He paid this as a penalty on the SEC’s indictment that he was aware of numerous and significant problems with Acrodyne’s accounting control and failed to assure that Acrodyne’s financial transactions were accurately recorded.
Payment of a penalty is an admission of guilt, even if one does not plead guilty. By default, therefore, Shamir Ally pled guilty to the charges of fraud and stayed out of Federal Prison.
That he, thereafter, became Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of GO Invest, the government established liaison between government and foreign investors is alarming. That he was selected by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to be a part of the country’s Diplomatic Corps, carry a diplomatic passport, mocks President Granger’s pledge to stomp out corruption and improve transparency and accountability at every government level.
The last time we saw a government desecrate the sanctity of diplomatic appointments was when, then President Bharaat Jagdeo used the arena to ship then Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, off to safety in India, in the face of strong allegations and overwhelming preponderance of evidence that he had knowledge of the operations of Death Squads that unleashed unprecedented terror to protect activities that lead Guyana to be labeled drug hub, money laundry and murder capital by the international community…..
…..Which brings us back to the eminently qualified Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, and why, after an announcement to overhaul the Ministry, he selects a man convicted of fraud by the United States Securities Exchange Commission to be his representative in Kuwait.
In February 2011, the political party People’s National Congress (Reform) PNCR held its elections for leader. With the unfortunate death of beloved Party member, Winston Murray and the waning reputation of incumbent Robert Corbin whose tarnish, it is said, was a thick covering of political gaming, Mr. Granger entered the arena against his fiercest competitor, Carl Greenidge.
The race was close.
The fight was brutal.
There were several vote recounts.
Mr. Granger prevailed and emerged leader of the party and candidate for President.
After the Coalition won the 2015 election, it is said that Minister Greenidge wanted the portfolio of Minister of Finance – a position at which he excelled and is on record as having led the country to economic growth when he held it under previous Administration.
Maybe, that’s where he is most comfortable and has the most to offer but President Granger chose another for Minister of Finance and made Mr. Greenidge Minister of Foreign Affairs – which seems to question his dexterity when paralleled with his former Ministerial post, challenge him in measurable duties like establishing an operational, effective Department Diaspora and choosing personnel with the requisite integrity and capability; forcing him to that nepotic list from which he selects his team.
It is here the dereliction of duty is proffered; where Minister Greenidge’s mistakes are seen as more calculated than not; seen as him poking his finger in the eye of the contender that relegated him to the category of Almost President, because it is well within his – Greenidge’s- ability to make appropriate selections of staff and establish a functional unit within his Ministry.
The conclusion is that he has retired his best foot and is doing his political ambulation on the worst foot possible, with purpose and intent.
Though this may offer some pause in the case of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it doesn’t address the cascade of mistakes and bad strategy that has plagued this coalition since its ascension to office. Many Supporters of the government have taken to asking for patience; have alluded to ‘inside information’ on planned improvement without realizing that the electorate is too impatient, too far outside the plans for progress. The government has got be ambidextrous- maintain its inside strategizing while keeping the electorate informed.
What continues to preface this Administration’s actions is its old-style politicking – the assumption that it is inherently right and has no obligation to provide answers to the people. They seem oblivious to the fact that this is a new era of information gathering, where social media plays a critical role in influencing opinions of the voters and has aroused an unprecedented level of voter curiosity in the workings of government.
The Administration likes to think that social media is only enjoyed by a small percentage of the nation but what they are discounting is the fact that one in five people now say they get their news from social media, that people talk to each other – the age old means of sharing information – and tell them that, in other parts of the world, the people are not just spectators but participants in their government. They know that some democracies have implemented crowd sourcing and citizen juries – both of which ask for direct input from citizens – to assist in governance. So the hush -hush, behind-closed-doors, style government is no longer tolerable and comes across as being suspicious and self –serving.
On the face of it, the performance of the Coalition fits in to the standard narrative. The fact that the government appealed to all Guyanese during campaign season and garnered an unprecedented level of support was expected because Guyanese everywhere were held political hostage under People’s Progressive Party, PPP, governance. The fact that the Coalition selected heads of Ministries and other Agencies is also routine.
But, behind what may be business as usual, a number of things have happened. This might be a Coalition’s last gasp- given the way this new model of government is stumbling through Administration. With the successive blunders and embarrassments, this government has had to field in such a short space of time, it is arguable whether Coalition Governance, as a political path, has a future in Guyana. It seems as though this hybrid model which comes with its own trials, thrives only in the social laboratories of academia where theories are matched with common sense and the baseline of human behaviors are predicted to be normal.
Paradoxically, it’s the actions of this novel form of government, a government that has the singular opportunity to prove that an amalgamation of race and ideology is the way to move Guyana past the politics of the fifties, past the acceptance of inherent racial division, past the imposition of strict partisan ideology that makes voters apathetic, that is mashing its own tail.
President Granger has been on his back foot for the greater part of his presidency, mostly because the President’s Men have let him down. To that, add the failed promises made during the campaign, the short fall of the Manifesto and the frustration of the younger voters, two thirds of whom are approximately age thirty five.
The criticalness of the situation is being assessed as keenly as people are curious about the President’s actions. Many are still of the opinion that he was the best person for the post but remember that he was their choice because they had ascribed a certain leadership quality to him and are wondering why those who remain a consistent source of embarrassment are still, essentially, the face of his administration.
There is still opportunity, though.
There is a carrot : Ensuring that this current Coalition is a success now, registering this as a viable model going forward.
There’s a stick: Pervasive disappointment; similarities in infractions committed by members of the previous government to those being committed by members of this one; the constant deflections and excuses for what amounts to politicians and their surrogates behaving badly …..and, worthy of note, a Parliamentary Opposition that is unquestionably efficient in its role; combined with Opposition media that surgically strikes at every misstep, relegating Government Media to response instead of report; reducing other Coalition Media to subtext ….
Given the sum total of all this, there is a very petrifying possibility that the PPP, with its stifling tactics will be voted back to power if the political paralysis that this Coalition displays lasts.
Though these two options exist, they cannot be allowed to coexist. The ambidexterity of the Administration has to extend to its ability to neutralize, if not disarm the Opposition of its stick. The current demands for patience and tolerance do not only contravene the vigor of the announcements of Forensic Audits but serve to muzzle these actions which are still to rise past dramatic declarations.
Yeah yeah, Shalimar Ali Hack… the Director of Public Prosecutions not giving the green light to prosecute…..still gathering evidence…. all this as Bharaat Jagdeo scoffs and mocks the Forensic Audit exercise…asserting that those who want to prosecute will be exposed for complicity and sharing the spoils of the loot of the treasury and other public holdings.
In the decades before they ascended to office the Coalition – its two major parts- had all the outward manifestations of political parties preparing for office. They held conferences, published manifestos and selected candidates. That never amounted to any transference to power but it gave them years of practice for a time such as now.
The Coalition is expected to be able to leverage their popularity, their platform as change agent and vault to a position of strength by standing firm behind its pledges, behind its promises and work on getting things done. The electorate understands that some things are time consuming but will not be duped by the appearance of executing promises while demanding patience. The reversion to the hard line political stances of the past will only aggravate this youthful electorate. They have no allegiance to that type of thing.
The stale assumptions of the past will not equip to lead in the future.
This Administration still has our support but we expect the President to take a more robust stance against the President’s Men who continue to behave badly. We expect to hear more than just bad conduct is under review. We are approaching the Sunset period of the Coalition agreement and the electorate remains uninformed on progress, unsure of whether those who plundered the treasury and other public agencies for personal gain will be prosecuted , unsure whether the Manifesto is still part of what guides the direction of this government.
There is relative silence on these issues and those who are asked for answers assume a defensive posture. Officials and their surrogates retreat behind the wall of loyalty, forgetting that their loyalty should be to their employer – the people who put them in power. Raising issues causes enmity and folks who were once independent thinkers and mavericks have retreated to a huddle that bears too much resemblance to the old days, when politicians owned the government and had only casual regard for the people.
We want the Coalition to succeed not only for now but because it is the blue print for political success for the future.
This is the new age of politics. This trend is never going to revert. It was anticipated that this Coalition, this amalgam of political ideologies and thoughts, would have intuitively understood this present era given, particularly, some of its youthful members and its cross section of political ideas.
By now we expected the release of a more robust job agenda; a vigorous approach to retooling schools especially those in neighborhoods that were selectively neglected under PPP governance; a more solid approach to the country’s housing crisis to remove generations of squatters from deplorable living conditions.
Answers are slow in coming and queries are met with suspicion and contempt.
It’s disheartening as we watch surrogates scurry around doing much of nothing, inflicting damage to a Coalition that should be basking in the spotlight of history and accomplishments.
Instead, we are forced to watch as what should be the spotlight fades progressively into that soft glow of low expectations.