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October 5th FYI to be remembered

Guyana Journal, October, 2012

This date in 1992 ushered in the country of Guyana a new dawn bringing hope for the people of Guyana by having free and fair elections, which saw a new government that promised true democracy and real freedom…. –GG

The Guyana Chronicle editorialized on this day thus:

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A most historic day

TODAY will go down as one of the most historic ones in the annals of our history as it marks the 20th anniversary of the restoration of free and fair elections and democracy bringing to an end nearly three decades of a dark period characterised by blatantly rigged elections and economic destruction and dictatorship.

The struggle for the restoration of free and fair elections and democracy was a long, hard and epic one led by the indomitable Dr Cheddi Jagan and his People's Progressive Party (PPP).

Initially it was the PPP which virtually fought alone but as the struggle intensified other political forces such as the Working People's Alliance led by Dr Walter Rodney, the Liberator Party led by Dr Ganraj Kumar and the Democratic Labour Movement led by Paul Tennassee joined in the fight. This led eventually to the formation of joint front called the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD).

It was by no means an easy road to October 5, 1992. During the 28-year dictatorship, we saw political activists killed, jailed on trump up charges and harassment of opposition political activists, unleashing of terror, suppression of press freedom and denial of basic human rights.

We saw PPP activists Jagan Ramessar and Bholanauth Parmand killed by the security forces; we saw WPA's Winston Dublin and Dr. Walter Rodney assassinated; we saw Catholic Priest, Father Bernard Darke murdered in broad daylight; we saw Rabbi Washington's House of Israel thugs beat and unleashed terror on opposition forces; we saw PPP's Arnold Rampersaud on a trumped up murder charge facing three trials and spending over 1,000 days in prison and being severely tortured, we saw scores being hounded and charged with treason; we saw WPA leaders being charged with arson for the burning down of the infamous Ministry of National Development and Mobilisation which housed the Office Of the General Secretary of the People's National Congress; we saw the doctrine of the Paramountcy of the Party being entrenched, and the PNC Flag being flown over the Courts including the Court of Appeal; we saw 52 bauxite workers thrown into a cell and teargassed; we saw a veteran trade union leader threateaned with being thrown out of an aircraft while airborne. The list could go on. But such was the state of our country during that dark period.

So the road to October 5 was an extremely difficult one which many had given up on, but the indomitable and determined Cheddi Jagan never lost hope nor the will to win. And stood to his famous and prophetic words in his book “The West On Trial” where he said: “The struggle will be long and hard. But win we must. Win we will.”_The struggle was significantly boosted when it took an international flavour with leading global personalities and organisations and the Guyanese diaspora joined in the battle. The end of the Cold War also helped the cause tremendously.

The PPP sought the services of the US Paul Reichler law firm to lobby leading US Congressmen including Senator Edward Kennedy to push the US government towards applying pressure on the PNC government to agree on free and fair elections which they stoutly resisted. Former US President Jimmy Carter and his Centre also played a crucial role in ensuring a return to free and fair elections.

Admirers of former President Desmond Hoyte seek to erroneously credit him with the restoration of free and fair elections which is a blatant attempt to distort history. These admirers conveniently forget that Hoyte resisted counting of ballots at the place of poll to the very end, describing it as a logistical nightmare. It was only when Mr. Carter came here and twisted his arm did he agree on this issue. These admirers also conveniently forget that Hoyte unleashed his “dogs of war” when the PPP was declared the victor, and GECOM Chairman Rudy Collins, a decent professional of impeccable integrity was injured. Fortunately, the injuries were not life long.

It was only after Mr. Carter and US government told him sternly to call off his “dogs of war” the violence stopped. But even then he threatened to make the country ungovernable and boasted that the new PPP government would not last two years. Today the government is 20 years old!

Many have forgotten too that the most blatantly rigged election was in 1985 under Hoyte's stewardship. It was during this election when PNC thugs at Haslington beat up and harassed British journalist, Tony Jenkins and when Dr. Jagan intervened on his behalf guns were pressed into his back and he was kicked down the stairs of Haslington Primary School.

One of the ironies of the PPP's victory on October 5, 1992 is that it is the same US which helped to bring down the then PPP government, helped it regain office on this occasion and former adviser to President John F. Kennedy apologised for his role in bringing down the PPP government in 1964 stating: I am sorry for what I did. I did a grave injustice to Dr Jagan and the Guyanese people.”

Another irony is that some who were vigorously opposed to the dictatorship and were colleagues of the slain WPA leader Dr Walter Rodney are today in the same bed with those responsible for his death and the countless atrocities perpetrated against the Guyanese people.

However, it was so unfortunate that Dr Jagan could not have even completed one term in office as ill hate took away the revered leader.

But fortunately he nurtured an army of followers who are able to carry on his legacy in very difficult and trying times in an admirable manner.”

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This editorial reminds us of the dark days during the PNC governance and tells of a beautiful dream for the future. But unfortunately many faithful Guyanese are finding it difficult to agree with the last sentence of the editorial.
A member of the PPP, Moses Nagamootoo, could not get along with the nouveau hegemon and, after a long life with the PPP, he resigned. He was/is a faithful Jaganite, and he also remembers this date. – GG

Please read:

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OCTOBER 5 - THE “NEW ERA” PROMISE BETRAYED
By: Moses Nagamootoo,
AFC Vice-Chairman & Member of Parliament

On October 5, marks 20 unbroken years of the PPP in government. It was heralded as the “dawn of a new era”.

Today, after 20 years in office, the PPP has lost its way. The “new era” promise has been betrayed, and working people have lost faith and hope in the PPP. It is divided and weak and, under its present Jagdeoite leadership, it can no longer by itself guarantee Guyana good, stable and effective governance.

I was a Minister of that first 1992 government, and I was to serve in that capacity under four presidents, until 2000. I still feel the excitement and expectations of the early years, when we earnestly worked to re-build our Guyana.

The Cheddi Jagan presidency was the golden gem of “lean and clean” in governance. It was short-lived. Whilst the formal political democracy for which we had fought relentlessly, was to survive, the frugal and honest government of Cheddi Jagan died with him.

One year ago this month, I resigned from the PPP and joined the Alliance for Change. Since then, the PPP has lost significant ground and has been reduced to a minority, now masquerading as government. The primary cause of its demise has been under-performance, inefficiency and unchecked corruption.

The AFC recognizes that much of what is positive over the years has been lost in the frenzy over political control and domination. The Jagdeo years would perhaps stand out as Guyana's disgraced era of political vulgarity, lawlessness and corruption, which is caricatured in the “Pradoville” culture of greed and sleaze. The country had sadly plunged into a “cuss-down mode”, from which it never recovered. Remember when journalists were seen as “vultures and carrion crows”; and those who could not toe the line were deemed “ignoramuses”?

Twenty years ago, people voted for change in how government did business. They wanted a government that would make sure that they get benefits for their hard work and from their taxes. They voted for cheaper foodstuff and transportation, decent housing and health care, water they could safely drink from their taps, education that ensures job opportunities. They voted for paying jobs and a living pension. The change they wanted was to show, in the words of the Song of Guyana's Children: “what Guyana's sons and daughters can be.”

But the story of development has been lost in the narrative of corruption. There is no parallel in Guyana's history for the vulgar descent into corrupt practices as that unfolding under the PPP's watch. The inheritors have put Cheddi Jagan and his crop of selfless fighters to shame. These inheritors have become a get-rich-quick elite that has forged an incestuous relationship with rags-to-riches tycoons. They and their cronies swindle billions of dollars on scams and schemes whether in fake and failed construction projects; accounts hidden from the Treasury; super salaries for sinecure employment together with “fat cat” pensions, perks and privileges; rigged contracts for computers, drugs, pirated textbooks, etc.

The AFC is convinced that after 20 years, corruption has ensnared the police, party and presidency.

Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, the long-standing PPP leader and former Speaker of the National Assembly, in June this year, described corruption in Guyana as “pervasive”. He was forced to resign from the PPP.

Last month, on September 15, 2012 Dr. Cheddi Jagan Jr., (Joey), who was a parliamentary candidate for PPP in last year's elections, expressed revulsion against the so-called president pension package of $3,000,000.00 monthly, which he dubbed “the sweepstakes package”. Son of Cheddi and Janet Jagan, Joey was mad that party members remained mum on the issue.

He stated: “All the apologists for the retirement package of Mr. Jagdeo in the PPP… show us, the regular citizens of this country, that they really don't care about the working people of Guyana and they think that we are like them, living with wool pulled over our eyes and with hearts made of stone”.

Say what you want about him, Joey is candid and honest, so much so that he took a broader swipe at corruption and waste, when he asked: “Where's our money for the road Fip Motilall never built? What about the sugar factory at Skeldon which doesn't work?

Earlier in the year, there was a furor in the PPP camp when the other Jagans' child, Nadira Jagan-Brancier, declared:

My parents were probably the most incorruptible people you would ever find; their honesty and integrity were of very high standards, but unfortunately do not exist or I don't see it in many of the leaders of the party and government.

“I think the party has moved away - not the party but certain elements in the party - from these very, very important values that held the party together … and so for me, when I look at some of the things happening, my parents must be turning in their graves - churning up in the waters of the rivers in which their ashes were sprinkled.

After 20 years, the social fabric of our society is disintegrating, as there seems to be no effective safety net for the poor and vulnerable. Daily we witness the rapid descent into utter depravity in proliferation of gruesome and mindless murders, child pregnancies, unchecked assaults on our women, etc. Whilst it is not easy to lay blame, it is time to hold those who run the society accountable. This is, after all, a social security and law and order issue.

We have to hold them accountable for the near financial collapse of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) in which tens of thousands of contributors invested and are now pushed to the edge of uncertainty. We must bring Government to account for the $5,000,000,000.00 NIS money that they recklessly placed in CLICO, which went belly up.

In its 20th year in government, the PPP has presented us with a catalogue of corruption in almost every aspect of the country's life, resulting in:

o significant drugs trafficking - cocaine in wood, daal puri, pepper sauce, glue and, now, hair swirls.
o customs duties evasion and smuggling - from the Polar Beer Scam to the Police Jet Boat scam.
o money laundering.
o trafficking in persons.
o mis-use of states resources to bail out failed corporations, pay party activists, reward docile newspapers and prepare Pradoville-type land for elite.
o operation of slush funds in state bodies such as NICIL.
o lottery fund being used as petty cash for Office of the President.

The drain in public funds, plus squandermania and waste, has resulted in greater borrowing so that Guyana's national debt today is higher than that under the PNC regime.

Mr. Ramkarran has called for action to deal with corruption, transparency and accountability. As Eddi Hooper sang, “Take warning; take warning: you better do good.” Much good can come should the government take these steps:

o Respect the Opposition's one-seat majority and commit itself to strengthen Parliamentary Democracy.
o Abide with the Rule of Law and foster a plural and free media.
o Appoint an Ombudsman.
o Form Procurement Commission and re-constitute national/regional tender boards.
o Send all files on corruption by state and para-state officials to DPP/CID for action.
o Appoint Chairperson and all members of Integrity Commission, and set up tribunal to investigate assets of all officials.
o Set up anti-money laundering intelligence unit and tribunal.
o Pass whistle-blowing law to protect those who want to tell about corrupt officials.
o Regulate elections campaign financing to cut out influence-peddling and promote fair elections.
o Hold Local Government Elections under reformed laws to resurrect grass-roots participatory democracy.
o Name a Commissioner of Information under the Freedom of Information Act.
o Reconstitute Broadcasting Authority to include qualified and independent professionals.
o Appoint a qualified Auditor General.
o Remove conflict of interest situation between Minister of Finance and the Audit Office.
o Re-organise leadership of state entities such as NICIL, GPL, GUYSUCO, National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) and NIS in interest of accountability and efficiency.
o Remove Minister of Finance as Chairman of NICIL and place excess revenues into the Consolidated Fund.
o Democratise state media to give equitable and balanced access to opposition and other views.
o Remove party (PPP) domination of state boards and the University of Guyana Council.
o Replace the Minister of Home Affairs to restore public confidence in law enforcement agencies.
o Reshuffle and professionalise diplomatic corps.
o Set up genuine tri-partite (AFC/PPP/APNU) Commission to oversee legislative agenda, and work for peaceful, participatory and inclusive governance.

Under its alliance and partnership policy, the AFC renews its patriotic commitment to work with all democratic forces and civil society to halt the rapid decline in the quality of national life, and urges the PPP to embrace genuine consultation and consensus. Today, the AFC holds a strategic balance and has, since November 28, 2011, started a new journey for real change in Guyana.”

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