Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ultimately accountable

Stabroek News Editorial, Tuesday 30 June 2009 –
Ultimately accountable

By Stabroek staff | June 29, 2009 in Editorial

With each passing day, the questions about whether this administration is committed to transparency and accountability grow more sonorous and with good reason. At his press conference on Friday President Jagdeo was given the opportunity to clear the air on several controversial areas which posed questions about the administration’s probity.

The first had to do with Minister Ramsammy and the claim by the former lawyer for Mr Roger Khan that he had been in contact with the Minister on certain matters. The President’s response was disappointingly dismissive. He would not, he said, launch an investigation just on any allegation otherwise there would have to be myriad investigations to take account of all such allegations. Except that the allegation made about Dr Ramsammy has come amid a stream of claims about the links between this administration and Mr Roger Khan starting with the fact that this fugitive from US law, now a confessed drug trafficker and believed to have been the number one drug lord here, was able to establish himself to the point that he was able to build houses, operate a business on an island in the Essequibo River and come within a whisker of acquiring a prime forest concession in the south of the country no doubt for the continuation of the drug business he was involved in.

On top of that, though caught red-handed with weaponry and the spy equipment that Dr Ramsammy’s name has been mentioned in connection with, Mr Khan was able to avoid a conviction and, according to him, embarked upon an extensive campaign to aid the government in its fight against crime. So is President Jagdeo’s government brave enough to risk an investigation of all the allegations of its links to Mr Roger Khan? Clearly not, although any credible investigation would have to be completely free of government influence and would have to be headed up by persons of repute and without connections to the administration.

President Jagdeo was also asked if he would now agree to an investigation of what transpired with Clico (Guyana) since the PNCR had said it was quite prepared to have an investigation done of the Globe Trust debacle. Readers may recall that when he was first tackled with the question of why no forensic investigation of Clico (Guyana) to determine exactly, among other things, how US$34M in Guyanese investments went from here to Miami instead of Clico (Bahamas), President Jagdeo most ill-advisedly said he might countenance a probe if the PNCR was also willing to have one of Globe Trust – the rub being that several persons affiliated to the PNCR were blameworthy in the collapse of the institution. The President rather naively believed that the PNCR would not risk this inconvenience but it has since called Mr Jagdeo’s bluff and is prepared for such an investigation. When asked about this on Friday President Jagdeo’s disappointing answer was that he was unaware that the PNCR was so disposed. For someone who is well in touch with the goings-on across the board and has access to wide a variety of willing sources it was disappointing that President Jagdeo was unaware of the main opposition party’s position. Even though there should have been no linkage between the two probes the question persists. When will President Jagdeo convene an inquiry into Clico (Guyana) to discover how our money got to Miami and who was withdrawing large sums in the days leading up to the placing of the business under judicial management?

Trinidad has already taken a lead on this and a forensic investigator has issued a report which has lifted the veil on some of the unsavory business practices of affiliates of the C L Financial Group. It is all the more important as the lead Clico (Guyana) executive Mrs Geeta Singh-Knight had a very positive relationship with this administration and ended up in plum positions on the Guysuco interim board and as head of the Berbice Bridge Company prior to the crisis in the group. You don’t end up in these positions in this country unless the government is in favour of it.

Third, President Jagdeo was also asked about his rather troubling disclosure at the Conference of Caribbean Police Commissioners in May that a plea bargain was in the works in relation to the polar beer case. Such a development was unknown to the public and still is.

Further, such information should have been restricted to the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions and should not ideally have been within the knowing of the President. What is more relevant here, given the time and rhetoric invested in the investigation commissioned by the President is that it has fallen flatter than stale beer through a series of inexplicable events that has left the DPP’s Chambers mute on the decision to abandon the prosecution of Mr Joshua Safeek and the GRA in the dark. It is typical of many so-called investigations that have been commissioned by this government.

The aforementioned cases are only a few of the matters which the government has thrown thick blankets around. The prime one is the pressing need for an investigation of the 2002 prison break and numbing violence that followed and claimed the lives of hundreds of people. The President had signalled that a comprehensive probe would be done of the killings that demoralized the police force, the East Coast and the entire country and there is still enough time for this before the end of this administration’s term in office. Last year’s three massacres and particularly the claims about the involvement of elements of the Joint Services in the Lindo attack are ripe for a rigorous investigation.

Numerous other issues cry out for a proper reckoning. The government is yet to provide a comprehensive account to the public for the use of billions of dollars in Lotto funds, the spending on the 2005 Great Flood, the accounts for the 2007 world cup, expenditure for the 2008 Carifesta, even though millions are still owed, and whether state funds that went to the Buddy’s Hotel and the Casique Hotel have been repaid.

Questions have resurfaced this year about the large drug supply contracts that have been entered into with New GPC (NGPC) with the concurrence of the Cabinet. It is a matter of public importance as NGPC’s parent group QA11 is another of those with favoured relationships with the government as witnessed by the controversial Sanata Textiles deal and subsequent fiscal concessions which had to be specially legislated for.

All of these issues and the continuing pall of doubt they cast over the propriety of governance by this administration carry over from month to month and year to year without the government being too bothered by it. That is something that should worry all Guyanese as it means they either don’t care enough about the quality of governance to complain about it or their government is comfortable knowing that it won’t be held ultimately accountable.

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