The world according to President Ramotar

I was in Alexander Village to attend the wake of a friend two evenings ago which coincided with a meeting of the PPP/C held at the head of the street in which I grew up. I dropped in on the meeting at a point at which President Ramotar was speaking. I heard him tell the community which enjoys not a single public space for its hundreds of children to play, about his party’s plans for world class high-tech industrial parks covering hundreds of acres; and a community which for years has endured potholes at both points of entry, of his party’s plans for an international hub for trans-Atlantic airlines to facilitate South African Airways.

He told them of his government’s decision to expend billions on a five star hotel, but not why it deprives the country’s only national university of basic requirements for teaching and learning. And of the building of the Berbice Bridge but not of the discriminatory tolls Berbicians are made to pay. He told them too about all the food items banned by Burnham but not the unbanning by Hoyte. No, such truth would destroy the party line. He told them of what the party has given the country but not that it is taxpayers’ money that the party in government has spent, and as often as not mis-spent. Or worse, what the party officials have taken for themselves and their friends.

He boasted of his party’s democratic credentials but the villagers know that they have been deprived of local democracy since 1997. He boasted too about integrity but did not tell his audience that villagers have been cheated of their investment in New Guyana Company Limited, the party controlled company.

He boasted about procurement but not his party’s failure to establish the Public Procurement Commission for fourteen years.

It was a case of everything good being the PPP while everything bad is the fault of the PNC. And the reason suggested by the President for his party not getting the credit it deserves is because of the Stabroek News, the Kaieteur News for whose publisher he reserved some choice language, and – pointing directly at Gerhard Ramsaroop and me in the audience – those “misguided” individuals who malign the record and character of the PPP.

Many years ago political meetings in Alexander Village used to allow for questions. Not so any more. So at the close of the meeting I approached Mr Ramotar and asked him directly whether he thought verbally targeting individuals in an audience would help him to win over misguided individuals.

He could offer no response.

Alexander Villagers are polite to visitors, even those who visit them only at election time.

Issues to which Ramotar should make a commitment

PPP/C presidential candidate Donald Ramotar announced at a political rally on Sunday evening that he would be ready to listen to the views and ideas of national interest from persons, groups or organisations.

Indeed he was specific enough to say, “As long as they think they have ideas I would be ready to listen to them, I would be ready to discuss with them, I would be ready to debate with them and I would be ready to work with them in the interest of Guyana.”

Unfortunately, over the past nineteen years Mr Ramotar and his party have rejected every single proposal made by the parliamentary opposition during the annual budget debate. He and his party have been silent even as the party’s President and government have rejected hundreds of calls, suggestions and ideas made by Guyanese on issues ranging from murders of citizens, abuse of state power, financial management and good governance.

But Guyanese are a forgiving people and do not hold him personally responsible for all the violations that have taken place under his party’s watch. I am sure they are prepared to turn a new leaf with him. The question is: is he himself prepared to turn a new leaf? Here are twelve issues that citizens would like him to make a commitment to:

1. If elected President, ensuring that the constitutional bodies such as the Ombudsman, the Public Procurement Commission and the Local Government Commission are set up within thirty days of, or other specified period after his election;

2. Within sixty or other specified number of days but not exceeding four months of his election, working with Parliament to appoint a broad-based Constitutional Reform Commission to examine the constitution with a view to removing its dictatorial features and making it more democratic and consistent with republican status and the rule of law;

3. Appointing a Commission of Enquiry to look into all aspects of the crime spree that led to the deaths of hundreds of Guyanese including his party’s Minister, Mr Sash Sawh;

4. Ensuring that all public funds including money from the sale of government properties and the proceeds of the Lottery are placed in the Consolidated Fund;

5. Implementing the recommendations of the Chang and the Symonds Reports to strengthen the Guyana Police Force;

6. Removing party control of the state media and the restriction on the citizens of Region 10 to access to television of their choice;

7. Removing the state monopoly on radio;

8. Reviewing the Amaila Falls Hydro Electricity Project with a view to ensuring transparency and economy in the project and lower tariffs to the consumers;

9. The establishment of a full enquiry into the CLICO collapse and action to deal with wrongdoers;

10. Appointing qualified independent persons to the Audit Office and removing those who have a conflict of interest;

11. Repealing the Former Presidents (Other Benefits and Facilities) Act; and

12. The passing of modern anti-corruption legislation.

Mr Ramotar will note that the issues raised will either save money or lead to better governance. They do not involve any expenditure or loss of revenue such as the reduction of VAT and other taxes on which he may wish to take the lead.

Because I wanted to limit the list to a round dozen, and to make them as uncontroversial as possible, I have not asked about the Marriot Hotel, the Intelligence Agency in the Castellani House Compound, the Airport Expansion Project or the giveaway of state property to party leaders, comrades and friends. He is of course free to address these. Nor have I raised any matter that could cause him any embarrassment like his role as a Director of Omai and GuySuCo or how his daughter obtained state property in Pradoville 2.

These are not new matters or fresh ideas. They have been around and expressed by many “persons, groups [and] organizations.”

He would have no doubt addressed his mind to them. Each is capable of a yes or no answer. As a citizen, I am appealing to him to answer them promptly for the benefit of the electorate whose vote he now seeks.