FRIDAY afternoon as I was walking down Albert Street, at the corner of Third Street, a gentleman stepped into my path and said, “Neva see big man sweat suh, Mr. Lewis.” As I acknowledged his presence, I later came to realise I may have had that perplexing look, for as he walked in stride with me he said, “I am talking about Jagdeo and the police.” I stopped to listen to him and by then two men coming in the opposition direction stopped to say hello and one asked, “Mr. Lewis what happening now with Pradoville and SOCU?” Given our culture an animated discussion followed.
I offered my view that the law must take its course and those who violated it must be held accountable. I went on to say, the same way a clerk in the Ministry of Home Affairs who cannot account for an $11,000 he may have collected and is placed before the court, the same way elected officials must account for their conduct before the court.
The conversation went back to Bharrat Jagdeo and it was very clear the trio’s animation was based on what they think should happen in this situation. It is their view that for years he walked around the country like a king, thinking that he was big and bad, and could have done as he pleased, yet when the State Organised Crime Unit (SOUC) invited him to answer some questions he’s running. One of them said, “Bad man don’t run, why you think he was running Mr. Lewis? You think he frighten dem boys at Camp Street? Another interjected and said, “Nah man, he don’t want to go in dem stink cells he locked up you, Witter and Benschop in.”
The one who started the conversation and visibility concerned what will happen said, “You read de newspapers and watch the video, can you imagine this powerful Jagdeo who even ban Gordon Moseley from State House, come out from SOCU with he tight shirt wet, wet?” Another interjected, “De same media who he used to cuss up and want to shut down help us see he downfall and even allowed he to get his side of the story out.”
Another injected, “Mr. Lewis, he said he gat immunity and did not have to answer any question, you think presidential immunity gon protect he? My response was:-Presidential immunity does not protect any president who deliberately decided that he or she would take state property for personal use. Presidential immunity is protection of judgement in the daily exercise of duty, but that exercise of duty has to be within the parameters of the law. I further said, the law is very clear how state land has to be disposed of and we must look to ensure that the investigating officers follow the law to the letter.
Then the conversation continued about the acquisition and sale of this land, those who benefitted, and what will be the outcome of the situation. One held the view that Robert Persaud’s offer to pay the difference for the property must be thought through carefully. I asked him why. He responded, “If you let people take things and when they get catch they say they will pay for it, then in future whoever thief and get catch will say, ‘ok I want pay too.’” Another injected and said, “Yuh right man, when yuh do the crime yuh gat to pay the price.”
By then another person who had later joined the group, interjected and said, while he voted for this government many of these ministers no different than Jagdeo and he ministers dem. He went on to say, you can go see them liming and knocking glasses at the Marriott and Pegasus, as though one thief man teaching the other one the tricks of the trade. He said, Mr. Lewis, I jumped out of the minibus when I see you stand up here to tell you that not one thing gonna come out of this. In enquiring why, he said, all of them is the same thing, is only one more criminal than the other, and in time you will see it.
The presence of the fourth took the conversation down another path and I too came in for harsh words. One said to me, “This is me government and I don’t like how you does attack them.” The time was taken to explain that in my business there is no sacred cow when it comes to violating laws, conventions, declarations, charters and time-honoured principles; I retain permanent interest and not permanent friends in bringing about a fair and just society.
I went on to say, had I and others stayed silent to the excesses of the PPP/C this conversation about Pradoville and SOCU’s role could not have been possible, because in the midst of silence excesses become rampant, and can consume and destroy a society. Just as you are disgusted by the bad things the PPP did, the same way you must be disgusted about the bad things your government is doing. It was further explained, you do not elect a government to repeat the bad you condemned you elect it to do better, and when we stand for this principle, the conversation we are having about the PPP today we should have no problem having it for the APNU+AFC government if any in its leadership violates the laws.
Friday’s conversation taught me many lessons. People are in tuned with what is happening around them. This has taught me, once again, that we should not take for granted the lessons that can be learnt from the ordinary man and woman, who in going about their daily business. Leaders often ignore this.