I WRITE in reference to one Sharmila Ally’s castigation of the PPP, its General-Secretary, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, and Attorney-General, Anil Nandlall in a section of the Guyana media.
The writer recognises and praises Messrs Jagdeo and Nandlall for their substantive role in rehabilitating the PPP since 2015, catapulting it into office in 2020 – Jagdeo for political and Nandlall for legal acumen. Both are skilled in their fields and their talents and expertise merged. They did what was required to get the party back in government. No doubt, these two giants are responsible for the PPP being democratically restored into office; without them, the party would not have been in office today. Others also played significant roles, some publicly and others quietly behind the scenes, and their contributions are not undervalued or underrated.
But while praising their contributions, Ms. Ally attempts to pit the two giants against each other, alleging unsubstantiated skullduggery in the selection of the Presidential nominee more than two years ago. Nandlall ran for the nomination within the PPP central committee; the party selected Dr. Irfaan Ali. The issue was settled. The nominee was selected a whole year before the election. Dr. Irfaan won the Presidency, illustrating the voters’ confidence in the party’s choice.
It does not serve the interest of the party or the government or the nation for Ms. Ally to try to pit one person against another. That is a strategy of political opponents – to create rift in the other side. One recalls that rift led to PPP losing its majority in 2011 and ousted from office in 2015.
After the electoral victory, the party made collective decision and appointment to Parliament, Cabinet, and government boards (as well as corporations). The President, the PM, the Vice- President, the AG, and other ministers have received very high approval ratings over the last year.
Ms. Aly criticised the AG for not enforcing laws on the oil contract and on alleged corruption. The oil contract was negotiated and signed by Minister Rafael Trotman of the PNC/R coalition government. Raphael Trotman said he was instructed to sign the contract. Nandlall excoriated him in Parliament on August 9. PPP Government’s hands are tied vis-à-vis the oil contract. Trotman was negotiating against Exxon skilled negotiators. Apparently, he nor the Coalition government, sought expert advice on the contract. Exxon outwitted Trotman by inserting a “stability” clause into the contract, which precludes unilateral renegotiation. The country Chad had the same stability clause built into their contract. Both Chad and Guyana have been caught with pants down by the oil negotiators.
Nandlall and PPP Government can’t be held accountable for the blunders of the preceding government. In fact, Nandlall said in Parliament that it was the most lopsided contract ever signed by Guyana. The country’s international relations image of upholding the sanctity of contracts should not be impaired by political expediency.
On the progress of local content legislation, Vice-President Jagdeo has been making a strong case for increased local content’s utilisation. A local content committee was set up by the President. It collected data and drafted recommendations. But given the complexity of this subject, the government decided to get additional guidance from consultants, since Guyana doesn’t have this capability at this time.
My readings as an economist suggest that local content formulation is a very involved process. It will, therefore, take some time before legislation is brought to Parliament. But it is a fair question for the administration and the AG. I agree government should expedite legislation on local content and enforce it.
Ms. Ally said that the AG has not been cracking down on alleged or perceived corruption. The writer should refer cases of corruption to the President or Vice-President or the police for action. I support punitive actions against corrupt officials. But evidence is needed for prosecution. I note that similar complaints were made against PPP pre-2015. When APNU was installed in office, over 40 forensic audits were done but no evidence of corruption was revealed. It is callous to make statements based on speculations when there is no evidence. I can’t vouch for the integrity of politicians, but the Vice-President and President said they have zero tolerance for improprieties. If there is evidence, please report same to the police. Fighting corruption is not within the AG’s portfolio. That responsibility is vested in the police (SOCU) and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Finally, I wish to point out to Ms Ally that in addition to those persons mentioned or identified as contributing to the restoration of democracy, several others combated the rigging in their own way. A major party was infiltrated by intelligence gatherers who provided information about the plan to rig, selection of judges for court cases, and expected judgments, etc. I know of a few individuals who confidentially collected and shared information with this writer. Strategic measures were undertaken to successfully crush nefarious plots. The rigging was thwarted at each stage including at the GECOM level. Had key individuals not been involved in underground operations, the rigging would have been successful and PPP out of office. Several unsung heroes, whose names would never be revealed to protect their identity, contributed to the declaration of the PPP as the winner of the 2020 elections.