Guyana: The things people did with unbridled power
A first time visitor to Guyana would conclude that the government is doing nothing right. He would not have been aware of the atrocities performed by the previous administration. Instead, he would be adorned with talks of victimization and witch-hunting.
He would hear complaints about the move by the government to procure special prosecutors away from the ambit of the Director of Public Prosecutions. He would also hear that the economy is on the downward slope because of poor administrative practices.
But for those of us here, the truth would be drastically different. I was chatting with a friend who happened to be close to some of the happenings and doings of the previous government. He told me some horror stories that I did not even know occurred.
For example, Kwame McCoy who never worked a day in the media was thrust into the position of a media czar. He dictated what happened in the state media and made no bones about the fact that his word was law. Not even the then presidents, both Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar, would do anything to overturn a decision by McCoy.
For example, McCoy took the decision that the late Raschid Osman and Lloyd Conway, two men who spent almost all their adult lives in the media, should be fired immediately. The Editor-in-Chief was the PPP-installed Michael Gordon.
Gordon was reluctant and to his credit he tried to talk McCoy out of the decision. In the end he arrived at a compromise position. He slashed the men’s salaries. Everyone knows that people’s salaries are never reduced unless by agreement. It was not until the change of government and the installation of the new board that this came to light.
There was this Board meeting and the men took the opportunity to report the slashing of their salaries. When the board asked Gordon about the reason for this action he told them that McCoy had ordered him to fire the men. Slashing the salaries was a compromise position. Their salaries were reinstalled, but Osman died a broken man; he never recovered from this decision by the PPP administration. McCoy’s action killed Osman.
If that was all things would not have been so bad, but there was the blatant theft of state resources. Gordon was always repairing the car entrusted to him even though it later transpired that nothing was wrong with the vehicle. His gasoline bill was also astronomical.
Most people would use no more than $15,000 a month on fuel for their vehicles, especially if they are largely office bound. Gordon was spending $125,000 a month on gasoline. His accountant could say nothing and the people who audited the accounts of the company found nothing wrong with the expenditure.
The PPP will say nothing about the blatant dishonest act at the Chronicle; it will say nothing about the discrimination. I was at the Chronicle and I never for one moment ever thought about my staff as being anything less than professional.
The Chronicle was just one place where such things happened. The arbitrary sacking and discrimination occurred in just about every department and Ministry. My schoolmate, Dr Roger Luncheon, once said to me that I was one of the lucky ones to find a job outside of the government, that there were my colleagues who were kicking bricks. He showed no remorse.
People who dared to oppose anything that the government proposed were made to pay. Even the late Doodnauth Singh, SC, had to move to the courts to get monies owed to him by the government. Justice Jainarayan Singh was another. Jagdeo refused to confirm him as a means of controlling him. These are the people who tell the world that they have a right to run Guyana.
The issue of special prosecutors was another talking point, until someone punched a huge hole in former Attorney General Anil Nandlall’s arguments. He said that the DPP must designate the special prosecutors. And that is correct. She gives a fiat to the person so appointed or designated.
Was Nandlall her choice during the prosecution of Mark Benschop for treason? He did get the fiat and bodyguards paid for by the state. The same thing applied to my friend Sanjeev Datadin, who lived at the Pegasus for the duration of the trial. The cost was astronomical.
To his credit, when asked about his appointment as special prosecutor, Nandlall told me that it was irrelevant. Suffice it to say that the DPP has given a fiat to a special prosecutor in one of the cases before the court.
Glenn Lall was the victim of Jagdeo’s discrimination. His newspaper had begun to expose the shenanigans of the PPP and Jagdeo was angry. Stopping short of killing Lall and the people at Kaieteur News, Jagdeo simply recalled the firearm that was granted to the company for protection. The guards were left naked.
Public servants whose pay increase and promotions were politically directed now have a free hand, to the extent that they are as vocal as they ever were. The businessmen who are complaining about bad business are asked to pay their taxes, which is like giving a dose of medicine to a child.
Correcting the ills has not been easy and is ongoing. Each move to correct something would be met with criticisms and condemnations. People are no longer getting rich by pocketing state funds. Imagine what would happen if Jagdeo and his cohorts get their hands on the oil money scheduled to come in a few years.