September 20, 2014 · By Iana Seale
This week, I found myself reflecting on my journalistic career and the toxic nature of the relationship that develops between the independent press in Guyana and our government, particularly within the last few years of the PPP/C’s scandal-filled management of the state.
20131214de recordIt was an old schoolmate—now embedded in the system—who actually set me upon this course when I ran into him a few days ago and he enquired what I am up to these days, besides, of course, writing an “anti-government” column.
To be clear, the label was not his. He was merely regurgitating what is no doubt aired in government circles, which is, that Iana Seales, like other independent writers in the country, is anti-government.
The label is as old and dirty as our politics itself. We live in a country where successive governments and, in particular, this PPP/C government, arrogantly believe that they are exempt from criticism. And if you dare to criticise any aspect of governance, you are not only anti-government, but you are also an enemy of the state.
I recall the bitter and divisive statements which were being peddled during the government’s propaganda-infused consultations on the anti-money laundering bill held earlier this year. It was either you supported the government’s decision to pass what they said was a Caribbean Financial Action Task Force-compliant bill and deal with opposition amendments after, or you were an enemy of progress.
Often I am tempted to say “only in Guyana,” but I understand how dictatorial regimes work and unfortunately they exist elsewhere. However, what I do not understand is how this government can preach democracy and inclusion and at the same time fight to block scrutiny of its actions and how it is managing our country.
Take, for example, the specialty hospital project and the controversy that attended the award of the contract to Surendra Engineering, long before the government’s recent decision to terminate the contract; or, the sole prequalification of the New GPC to supply drugs for the health sector; or the Baishanlin exposés that are still reverberating across the country. If we are to address these, pointing to the lack of transparency in contract awards and government agreements with investors and the seemingly advantageous nature of such transactions for certain parties, the labels would start to pile up.
I believe that we need to examine—and now is as good a time as any—the issue of free speech and its fading presence in our democracy. This is in addition to calling the government out for its ugly and isolating attitude towards citizens who ask questions and who are committed to staying engaged in the democratic process.
What makes me anti-government? My weekly contributions in this column are meant to express my own views and feelings about what is happening in our country. The writings are meant to engage people, whether at home or in the diaspora, on the issues affecting us, and to trigger conservations about justice, human rights, and more important, basic rights.
There was a reason I got involved in journalism: I wanted to stay true to who I am and feed the curious spirit which burns within me. I had such amazing teachers; beginning with the two persons I call mother and father, who taught me that asking questions was important. Having a certain level of consciousness in those early years came from interacting with elders and learning from mentors in my community.
I was writing about life in my street and how difficult it was for some people since I was in Primary School and, thankfully, no one ever discouraged me from asking questions and from writing. I enjoyed those years of writing freely and sharing my work with people who critiqued it and, consequently, strengthened it.
Today, I can testify to living and working as a journalist in a country where the state viewed me as an “opposition supporter” because of my writing. Former president Bharrat Jagdeo even went as far as to label journalists in the country “carrion crows” and “vultures.” I remember thinking at the time that perhaps we are vultures, because we are left to report on the decaying structures of our society; a country torn by political strife and racial and social divisions.
This new Donald Ramotar administration is no different—if we speak out against corruption and the numerous scandals that have weakened his presidency, we are labeled as “anti-government” or treated to some inane commentary by party faithfuls about how citizens are working against the national interest.
There is an urgent need for us to elevate the level of debate in this country and for citizens to demand greater accountability from government, even if it means being labeled. Over the years, I have proudly worn every label they gave me because I firmly believe that we have a duty, as citizens, to tell things as they are. What’s more, we do this from a position outside the reach of politicians and governments.
Tomorrow as I celebrate another year on earth and blow out a few candles, I will reflect on my years of living as a “vulture” and shining a light in those dark corners the government would like to keep dim. And I do so while forever indebted to all the people who came into my life and helped me to understand that a voice is the most important means citizens have to make their ideas and interests visible.
Free speech is not a subversive activity—it is a fundamental human right and we are not going to truly progress if this government cannot find room to accommodate the full breath of the voices and opinions of the people in our democracy.
Have a question or comment? Connect with Iana Seales at about.me/iseales
APRIL 4, 2013 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS
There are three grave tragedies of the Guyanese condition created or magnified by our divisive politics since 1950. One is the scourge of racism and ethnic polarization. Another is moral and psychological degradation of the nation. The third is economic impoverishment.
The first and the last elements have always existed in this land since the events pre- and post-Emancipation reshaped this landscape. The moral and psychological degradation of the Guyanese people before the arrival of the bitter struggles of the PPP and the PNC was limited to the immoral domination by the bourgeoisie of the working class.
The working class majority itself was peaceful, hardworking and decent-minded people grounded in justice and fairness in a sharing and crime-free working class stratum despite their sufferings. That changed with the arrival of the PPP and the PNC. They introduced full-scale ethnic division and racial apartheid politics to Guyana.
They caused their constituencies who were 85% of the population to adopt morally fraudulent and catastrophic positions out of this racial division. It was no longer what was right, just or fair, but what was racially opportunistic.
Negative ethnic generalizations and stereotyping became full-blown diseases under their reigns. All Africans were the PNC and all Indians were the PPP.
Moral hypocrisy strutted supreme. A dictatorial PNC government was to be overthrown by a Stalinist PPP party that crushed democracy. PNC socialism injected with healthy communist action (see nationalization) was condemned by the PPP and its supporters who advocated in the same breath the replacement with a communist state. PNC supporters sinfully accepted the atrocities of the PNC government just like PPP supporters support the abominations of the PPP government today.
In the grand circle of irony, these two groups of supporters have become one and the same. This moral undermining of the nation that took place in the racial-political struggles of the fifties and sixties have left an indelible stain on this nation’s psyche and morality. Even today, there are calls for the repetition of these stereotypes as evidenced during the 2011 election campaign when Bharrat Jagdeo reminded those who endured the PNC struggles to recall those experiences for the youths of today.
The moral damage was not limited to the psychological operations of the PPP and PNC and their race-driven political orgy. It has to do with the economic woe the PPP and PNC left this nation. Both of these parties have been dismal economic managers. Despite its working class rhetoric, the PPP’s economic management from 1957 to 1964 was a failure that saw economic decline and hardship for the working class along with increasing corruption.
The PNC was handed an economy in gradual decline in 1964 and took it over the precipice with a reckless socialist policy accompanied by corruption and mismanagement. In 1992, the PPP got a destroyed economy that was beginning to grow again and has delivered modest growth in an era of the greatest worldwide economic growth. The modest gains the PPP achieved have been largely shifted by deliberative government policy into the hands of a new upper class who benefit from the largesse and corruption of the PPP.
All of this economic mismanagement has pushed the majority of this country to moral corruption in order to survive. Not only do they have to work for immoral government, they are constantly morally debasing themselves in order to obtain a basic modicum of decent living. Even worse, this is now instinctive and normal for many.
By allowing illegal activity like drug trafficking to flourish, the PPP has firmly destroyed the already wavering moral core of this country. Economic destitution leads to moral equivalency and Guyana since the fifties has been a prime example of this truism. We have people who condone or execute all manner of atrocity for fear of losing that laughable paycheque in a country of rampant unemployment.
In dictatorial governments, people become afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation and harm. The mind becomes Pavlovian, directed by the dictates of the regime. This is what has happened in Guyana since the fifties. Slavery was abolished some 175 years ago while Indentureship ended 96 years ago, yet this nation remains very much a plantation moved by race and economic survival. This gives us the constant moral massacre or the annihilation of the moral code of this nation.
Right and wrong is relative in this nation because there is no moral line left that cannot be crossed. Wrong is very right in Guyana and right is often wrong and illusory. We are a nation in a moral quagmire from which extraction requires sacrifice, which we lack.
In every country that has built itself from ruins, except Guyana, there is an unmissable connection between sacrifice and struggle and moral reclamation. In these countries, people struggle, scrimp, sacrifice and battle to improve their lot, but they also possess a powerful moral philosophy about it; that they will endorse those who will help them achieve their redemption and reject those who are morally abject.
In Guyana, we have a generally hardworking nation that somehow abandons that moral requirement that is vital to their ultimate advancement. If people refuse to attach moral expectations and demands to their struggles, they will inherit societies constantly derailed by the immoral leadership and political parties they refuse to change.
Convenient moral blindness produces no economic profit or advancement out of poverty. You cannot expect less choke-and-rob of your earnings when you allow more choke-and-rob of your taxes by the rulers of the state. Choke-and-robbers at the top lead to choke-and-robbers at the bottom.
Moral hypocrisy allows crooks to bully a populace. Moral convenience leads to an immoral society where vagabonds thrive and in such a society only a handful of the depraved are enough to demonize and crush the rest.
The PPP and PNC have destroyed the morale of this nation and wrecked its psyche. Too many are worried about how those of another race or class are voting or how their own race or class are voting and not focused on what is important to them. That self-focus, which is evident in wealthy nations, and which allowed a White-dominated society like the USA to elect a Black President, is grounded in that element of morality that is missing in Guyana.
Guyana most corrupt country in English-speaking Caribbean
DECEMBER 6, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
-watchdog body calls for Procurement Commission, new Integrity Commission,
“When desperately needed development funds are stolen by corrupt individuals and institutions, poor and vulnerable people are robbed of the education, health care and other essential services.”- UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon
Four days before the world observes the United Nations International Anti-Corruption Day, new rankings have placed Guyana as the most corrupt country in English-speaking Caribbean countries.
According to rankings released yesterday by watchdog corruption body, Transparency International (TI), the 2012 Annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) has placed Guyana at a lowly 133 out of total of 174 countries. Guyana managed a miserly 28 points out of 100.
And in the presentation of the Transparency International findings, head of the local chapter, Attorney at Law, Gino Persaud, and Secretary Frederick Collins, both lauded Kaieteur News which has been highlighting corruption in Guyana.
The newspaper has been investigating the various contracts issued under questionable circumstances and examining the numerous projects, many of which were believed to be overpriced.
TIGI officials: From left is Vice-President, Dr. Anand Goolsarran; President, Gino Persaud and Director, Frederick Collins.
The results were released by Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI), the local contact of TI.
TI would have conducted its surveys gauging perceptions to corruption by examining relations in the public sector, the local police, Customs, procurement and doing business.
The index has become a signature tool widely used around the globe to measure the perceived levels of public sector corruption in countries and looked at keenly by investors and multilateral lending agencies.
Denmark, Finland and New Zealand tie for first place with scores of 90, helped by strong access to information systems and rules governing the behaviour of those in public positions.
Guyana tied Comoros, Honduras, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
“This ranking places us at the bottom of the English Speaking Caribbean with only Haiti below us at 165. It is noteworthy that in the Caribbean, Barbados ranks at 15 with a score of 76; both St. Lucia and Bahamas rank at 22 with a score of 71 and St. Vincent and the Grenadines rank at 36 with a score of 62,” TIG’s President, Gino Persaud said during a press conference at the offices of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Waterloo Street.
Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia once again cling to the bottom rung of the index. In these countries, the lack of accountable leadership and effective public institutions underscore the need to take a much stronger stance against corruption.
At the press conference also were former Auditor General, Dr. Anand Goolsarran, who is TIGI’s Vice President; and Director, Frederick Collins.
Persaud, a lawyer, said that the advocacy body will be writing government on the findings of the index.
TIGI listed a number of measures that Government will have to implement to raise Guyana’s rankings. These include the appointment of competent and independent members of the Integrity Commission to scrutinize the financial disclosures of politicians and bureaucrats and with adequate staff and resources to ensure the Commission can adequately fulfill its mandate.
Persaud noted that Prime Minister Sam Hinds in June had promised to have new members of the Integrity Commission sworn within a week.
Among other things TIGI is also calling for the urgent appointment of members of the Public Procurement Commission to regulate government contracts and minimize their involvement; the implementation of modern anti-corruption legislation; implementation of whistle-blowing legislation; the enforcement of existing anti-corruption laws by investigating and prosecuting the corrupt and the strengthening of existing anti-corruption institutions such as the Guyana Police Force and the Financial Intelligence established under the money laundering legislation.
“These institutions are weak and unable to counter serious white collar crime and corrupt activities,” Persaud said in his read statement.
Guyana should also appoint an Ombudsman to address grievances from members of the public; ensure that all public monies are placed to the credit of the Consolidated Fund, and no public expenditure must be incurred without Parliamentary approval.
TIGI also called for all appointments to public offices to be advertised and made with due regard to technical competence, and not loyalty; and for the Access to Information Act passed in Parliament to be strengthened and made operational.
TIGI also called for the strengthening of civil society and for organisations such as the Guyana Bar Association, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Private Sector Commission, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and the Guyana Press Association to become more involved in combating corruption by speaking out against corruption and being proactive within its own membership on tackling corruption and by partnering with us for collective efforts.
“We call on the press corps to be more vigilant in acting as a professional, impartial and responsible watchdog body against corruption.”
According to Goolsarran, most countries are doing everything possible to “get to the top of the table” of rankings. He urged, as a start, that government accept the index in good faith and do something about it.
The officials drew reference to a judge in Brazil who targeted a number of politicians close to former President Lula and who was the laughing stock of many. The politicians were brought to trial.
Asked to comment on the impact of the findings, Dr Goolsarran said that serious investors use the findings by Transparency International to determine whether they would invest in a country. Many have opted to cancel plans for investment in Guyana.
TIGI is seeking funding now to educate Guyanese and will seek to meet with government and Members of the Parliament to discuss the issue which ultimately affects the way Guyana is perceived.
The TIGI officials refused to be drawn into answering questions whether President Donald Ramotar had done enough to tackle corruption in Guyana.
According to Collins, newspaper reporters and even the Auditor General’s annual report have been indicators of the situation of corruption in Guyana.
TIGI also disclosed that it has been asked by the Minister of Natural Resources to work with his Ministry on mining, an area which has been besotted with issues of corruption and lawlessness in recent years.
According to TIGI, the index demonstrates that corruption continues to ravage societies around the globe. Two-thirds of the 176 countries ranked in the 2012 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean), showing that public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials held more accountable.
According to Huguette Labelle, the Chair of Transparency International, “Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision-making. Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent and making public bodies more accountable to people. After a year of focus on corruption, we expect governments to take a tougher stance against the abuse of power.”
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon has said that corruption afflicts all countries, undermining social progress and breeding inequality and injustice.
“When desperately needed development funds are stolen by corrupt individuals and institutions, poor and vulnerable people are robbed of the education, health care and other essential services. All of us have a responsibility to take action against the cancer of corruption.”
The private sector, too, stands to gain enormously from effective action, he said. “Corruption distorts markets, increases costs for companies and ultimately punishes consumers.”
According to the BBC, corruption was the world’s most talked about issue in 2010 and 2011.
Auditor General’s findings on Region One just the tip of the iceberg
NOVEMBER 11, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS
I am not surprised at the findings of the Auditor General with regards to the Contracts in Region 1. I am sorry but what has been disclosed is only the tip of the iceberg. Corruption in Region 1 is so rife. To get to the fishy deals, one has to travel up into the riverain areas where some buildings the size of fowl pens are called schools and teachers’ quarters. Yet the contract prices are astronomical. One only has to check the amounts paid for materials for building/repairing roads. Where are the roads?
There is a fuel depot at Morawhanna and yet the Administration purchases fuel from middle men. Morawhanna is across the pond from the Mabaruma Compound.
How is it that one previous REO collected accounts from some business people and some time after, turned up with cash to pay them. Has the Sub Treasury become mobile?
Like I mentioned, the Auditor’s report is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a huge chunk below surface, the likes of what ripped the Titanic open and caused it to sink.
The Opposition allows this universe of corruption in Guyana to grow and expand
NOVEMBER 4, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS
I am replying to one of the East Indian extremists, Vassan Ramracha that lives in New York that shamelessly supports the PPP’s autocracy and tyranny in Guyana (see “Kissoon’s social contract and the blame game,” KN, Nov 2).
People like Ramracha can boast about the corrupt rule of the PPP (which this newspaper should win a UN medal for exposing corruption in this country) because the opposition beginning with the advent of Robert Corbin’s leadership and also including the pre-2011 AFC plus a dead civil society structure allowed this tyranny and corruption to grow and take over Guyana
Hopefully, it looks like Linden will put a stop to this autocracy as it relates to Linden. In five successive national elections, the opposition has won the constitutional administration of REGION FOUR but has not been given its constitutional right to administer this region.
As someone trained in history and political philosophy, I say most unambiguously, this would never happen in any other country anywhere in the world that is plural in nature and driven by a huge ethnic divide where the contending ethnic communities are equal in importance and numbers. I repeat, this has not occurred elsewhere and the leadership of the oppressed constituencies would not accept to be shifted from areas of control in the particular country where it won legitimate votes to govern
People like Ramracha in their zeal to publicly support the PPP are so silly that every time they open their mouths, they offer critics of the PPP golden opportunities to expose the fascist underpinnings of the PPP’s misrule. The most convenient example of this in Ramracha’s letter is the following statement; “Contrast Mr. Kissoon now living a privileged life of luxury with a big house in a gated community.” How stupid one can be. But this is the type of people the PPP attracts.
I am sixty years of age and only owned a home in 2007 after working for more than twenty years in an institution, the University of Guyana that pays what al of Guyana knows is a miserable salary. I drive a duty car that I bought since 1999. I live in an ordinary lower middle class house without any wealthy interior decoration. My home does not have a self-contained bedroom. The family used the same bathroom.
If Ramracha is looking for luxuries and luxury home, he should visit the mansions of Cheddi Jagan’s protégés. Ramracha has to be the most imbecilic supporter of the PPP. He doesn’t pay attention to what Donald Ramotar writes. Six years ago in these letter pages of this same newspaper. Ramotar wrote to say that he knows some businessmen helped me to build my home. Of course he is right. I didn’t have the wealth the PPP boys and girls got after they acquired power in 1992. In my column today I acknowledge I had received help in erecting my dwelling house.
I do not live in a mainstream gated community but in an area where GUYSUCIO gave almost free house lots (because of the almost next to nothing price) to its wealthy Indian hierarchy who had no uses for them because they already had their mansions. These lots were in turn sold far, far, far above market rates. The seller of my land was extremely generous not to be greedy. He did the moral and honorable thing. Two of the plots were possessed by the son-in-law of an infamous minister. Two of them are currently owned by a certain minister. There is only one reason for describing it as gated because it has one road in and one road out
Contrast my age and the meager resources of mine with little boys and girls who are the children and relatives of the PPP dynasty, who in 1992 when the PPP came to power were literally little boys and girls. Today these grown up boys and girls are owners of assets that match the resources of the traditional rich classes in Guyana. In my research for which Bharrat Jagdeo sued me, I documented who these people are. Some are young men who haven’t reached forty years as yet.
A certain Minister has put up his/her house for sale in Pradoville 2. An inquirer that I know told me the price is $US 1.2M (just above 200 million Guyana dollars). That Minister is not forty five years as yet and had no claims to previous resources. We know about a mansion and swimming pool of a Minister in REGION 3. We know of a Minister up the East Coast whose swimming poll is one of the most resplendent in the world with a lighting system that you find in the pools of American billionaires
Amidst these graphic facts, fools like Ramracha can point to someone like me with his idiotic claims of me living in luxury.
But Guyanese are glad to see these asininities from people like Ramracha because it gives some of us the space to further expose the moral and criminal bankruptcy of a party that the daughter of its founder, Nadira Jagan has boldly chastised for the decadent, wealthy lifestyle of its leaders. Imagine Ramracha talking about me living in luxury and Nadira Jagan and Ralph Ramkarran have written about corruption in the PPP administration, Yes, the PPP that Nadira Jagan’s father founded and that Ralph Rakarran helped to build. Let Ramracha write more so we can reply and show the rural folks what type of monsters control their country
Ramotar administration is a mirror image of the corruption, thievery, drugs & nepotism that were the hallmark of the Jadgeo
Donald Ramotar has lived up to the expectations of his detractors
NOVEMBER 4, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS
It was clear to many political observers and other interested parties that the Peoples Progressive Party Civic, did not field the best candidate at the November 2011 elections. The critics at that time argued that Ramotar was weak and an untested; that he was not a critical thinker and had never held elected office or managed any complex governmental or non-governmental organization. Ramotar was perceived as a party hack, who was hand chosen by then president Bharatt Jagdeo, for all of the reasons mentioned.
However, in keeping with Stalinist tradition the other more prepared and credible candidates all bowed out and acceded to the dictate of the Jagdeo faction at Freedom House. To be fair there were voices that championed the candidacy of Donald Ramotar, they claimed that he was a man who had come from humble beginnings and was involved in the labour movement, that he was a fair and honest man; in other words he was not Jagdeo. Today as we approach the one year anniversary of the Ramotar presidency what I find interesting but not surprising is that the naysayers were right. Donald Ramotar the seventh president of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana has lived up to the expectations of his detractors; he is a weak, ineffective and visionless head of state.
In December 2011 at his inauguration president Ramotar told the nation that he would appoint his cabinet in two days and even flirted with the possibility of a cross-party government. Integrity, inclusivity and impartiality were the hallmark of a well balanced inaugural address; however, forty eight hours later Ramotar retained his predecessor’s cabinet, dashing all hopes for inclusivity, integrity and impartiality.
Within days of forming his new government, on December 6th 2011 peaceful demonstrators were shot by the police while processing in Georgetown. This was followed by a bitter budget debate that saw for the first time in recorded history a sitting government picketing against the parliamentary opposition. Ramotar had promised that he was prepared to work together with all the political parties and stakeholders, but when it came to the National Budget, his minority government was not prepared to work with the Parliamentary majority APNU/AFC.
The budget crisis spawned the Linden electricity crisis, when the PPPC government imposed on the people of Linden an undue hardship (an increase in the electric tariff), without negotiating or consulting with the peoples representatives. In his inaugural address president Ramotar spoke of the exciting task of creating opportunities for all Guyanese, yet within three months of taking office he was imposing a draconian tax on a community (Linden) where 70% of the people are unemployed or severely under-employed.
It was becoming quite clear that the new Head of State’s rhetoric were equidistant from his actions and his government’s treatment of the poor and depressed communities. As the situation escalated at Linden and the people and their Regional and national leaders called on the president to meet with them, to sit down and listen and consult, this president refused. Then came July 18th 2012 and three young men were brutally murdered after the Guyana Police Force again opened fire on peaceful protestors at the Mackenzie-Linden bridge.
The following day the president met with the Opposition Leader and Regional representatives, but by this time it was too late; property would be destroyed and more people would be shot by the police, all because of a government’s refusal to meet it constitutional mandate of consulting with the people and their elected representatives. Consumed by crisis, and showing no real flair for bold and innovative leadership, the Ramotar administration continued as a mirror image of the corruption, thievery, drugs and nepotism that were the hallmark of the Jadgeo years.
Once again innocents lives of young African men were taken, killed at the hands of the police; Shaquille Grant at Agricola; Dameon Belgrave in Georgetown.
In a side note, it was no surprise a few days ago that the longest serving member of the cabinet and president Ramotar’s Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee admitted under oath, when answering a question from Attorney Basil Williams(at the Linden Commission of Inquiry), that he(Rohee) was not a visionary. So, with a head of state that has proven to be weak, ineffective and visionless, surrounded by a cabinet that is mediocre for the most part, but generally less than stellar there is not much hope for the ensuing period of the Ramotar presidency.
Mr. Editor I truly searched for something complimentary to say about this period, but all I could find was controversy and conflict. In a country where most of the people would be classified as poor, the Ramotar government celebrates things and calibrates its development based on big buildings, poorly conceived roads and brand name hotels rather than human development.
The level of unemployment in this country is unsustainable, the under education of our children and the school dropout rate nationally is unsustainable, the crime situation and the lawlessness of our law enforcement agencies is unsustainable, yet this president has been deathly silent and has failed to lead on all of these important issues facing our nation.
Even if one graded on a curve it would be difficult to give this president anything but a failing grade in his first year in office.
AUGUST 12, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
…tells horror stories of GRA, Customs and greedy contractors
His letter writings in the daily newspapers are provocative, raising serious issues regarding life in Guyana. But all that may very well pale in comparison to what he did on Friday.
Gabriel “G.H.K.” Lall, who returned to Guyana in the early 2000s after living for 30 years abroad, has penned a book on corruption in Guyana, insisting that the issue is a deep-rooted one that may have to take leaders from both sides of the divide to help root out.
It may very well generate hot controversy and debate.
G.H.K. Lall with his insightful book on corruption in Guyana
Titled, “Guyana: A National Cesspool of Greed, Duplicity & Corruption (A Remigrant’s Story)”. The book is a brutally honest one, filled with strong descriptions of Lall’s experience with the Guyana Revenue Authority and “greedy” workers there.
Lall also told tales of being ripped off by contractors, scams by bank employees and auto dealers and even of corruption at the Deeds Registry.
The remigrant, now in his 50’s, does volunteer work in the education field.
The book, which was launched Friday to a small gathering at Marian Academy, chronicles Lall’s return to Guyana and a growing intolerance of the “corruption obscenity of public officials and fellow citizens.”
Among those present at the launching were trade unionists, former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran and Chief Executive Officer of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, Michael Khan.
Lall said that what he has written on corruption in Guyana is nothing new and is known to all Guyanese.
“It is not a story about one crooked public official, or one sleazy borrower, or one counterfeit contractor, or one traitorous family member. Rather, it is the accumulated, searing revelations highlighted from the journey of one man in the untamed jungles of Guyana,” the Preface informs.
It went further. “Greed and duplicity and corruption in Guyana cut across race – I have had terrible experiences with Indian, Black, Dougla and Amerindian folks: those I had the misfortune to deal with manifested certain common characteristics: a serious lack of scruples, a sense of entitlement and an unwillingness to travel the hard, grueling road of sacrifice.”
In one instance in the book, Lall whose wife has passed away, spoke of bringing in his prized possessions and being forced to fork over $150,000 after they were assessed as commercial and not personal items. It was the same attitude of corruption that he found at GRA while processing his application for duty free concessions.
“Corruption is not a Georgetown, Berbice or Essequibo problem but rather a “national” one,” he stresses.
The author described as an insult, the decision by the US Embassy not to accept local documents from Guyana when an application is made for a visa. He likened the revelations of corruption to incest, which nobody wants to talk about, but needs to come to light.
The remigrant, lauding Kaieteur News and Stabroek News for their exposure of corruption, urged for political leaders, professional bodies and other pressure groups to apply pressure to weed out a system that is deep-rooted.
Earlier, attorney-at-law, Gino Persaud, who also happens to be President of the Chapter of Transparency International, noted that corruption hurts everyone and feeds inequality.
“It affects the building of roads and schools, and payments to teachers, nurses and police and takes away resources from the masses, enriching a few,” Persaud stated
He also pointed out that it is a fact that Guyana has rated a lowly 134 out of 183 on the global Corruptions Perception Index.
Also speaking at the launching was former Auditor General Goolsarran who noted that he too returned to Guyana as a remigrant, only six months ago, and said he is “angry, sad and ashamed” at the corruption level in the country which is at the “crossroads”.
Goolsarran, an outspoken letter writer also, admitted to being targeted and even ridiculed by family members because of his stance on corruption. He urged for Guyanese to speak out more.
The book is being sold at the Austin’s Book Store, on Church Street.