Economía

My turn | Kicks and kisses

João Félix, en campo gafe - AS.com

YESTERDAY, I had a pleasant conversation with Dr. Cheddi (Joey) Jagan, the only son of two Presidents of Guyana. He wanted me to know that he supports David Granger as President for a second term. It was not the first time that he has given me this assurance. We both recognise that the formation of the APNU+AFC Coalition was a bold step in the right direction. He would remind me how he had insisted that David Granger and I should, together, have a photo op, and how he joined our hands when we both turned up for a pre-2015 meeting in New Jersey.

I share his interest in a broad-based government of national unity that his late father, President Cheddi Jagan, had embraced.

ETHNO-PARTISAN POLITICS I told him that there is always a place for the PPP, and that the Cummingsburg Accord expressly provided for its inclusion in a government of national unity.

But under its present leadership, the PPP would not go there. The self-styled “maximum leader” is too wrapped up in ethno-partisan politics, and in converting Jagan’s party into a corporate entity to protect the narrow interests of his rich cronies. I reminded Joey about my own, unwavering commitment to a government of National Unity, and the price that I had paid in the PPP’s leadership for this. I recounted how, on December 21, 2018, shortly before the motion of no- confidence was debated in the National Assembly, I had urged Bharrat Jagdeo to change course; that he should instead engage the government in talks.

I had told Jagdeo that whatever the outcome of the no-confidence motion, after the debate, it would be difficult to talk with the Coalition about national unity. He listened, giggled and, knowing that he had clinched a deal, he sarcastically inquired: “Are you going back to live in Sophia?” Jagdeo’s focus was never on the bigger picture.

BIGGER PICTURE I have never lost that bigger picture even as I walked away from the PPP in 2004, saying “ah done wid you all”; and again, and definitively, in 2010. On the latter occasion, I recall Dr. Roger Luncheon castigating me, rhetorically asking as I approached him, “when has Nagamootoo become the (expletive) conscience of Cheddi Jagan?” Those were the words that prompted me to write in “Fragments from Memory”, the following: “When Cheddi died, our whole life changed. Perhaps, he had set that in motion with his unexpected announcement in November 1996 in Lethem that I could succeed him as presidential candidate for the 1997 elections. After a kangaroo trial, I was fired by Janet as Local Government Minister. That eclipsed my soul, which was with the grassroots among ordinary working folks in the villages and Amerindian communities. Nothing was the same after Cheddi died. Corruption — at first by stealth then overtly – began to eat into the sinews of the party and government. The new leaders quickly grabbed lands for themselves, their families and friends, and many were building high-priced mansions in an awful display of ostentatious living. Cadillac-style living in a donkey-cart economy, one critic called it.

Nepotism and cronyism was the new yardstick for rapid enrichment for a few who bought out state enterprises or were awarded juicy contracts. The new elite cultivated by the Moscow-trained Jagdeo were given lands at basement prices. They grabbed forestry concessions and were given as virtual gifts precious national resources that constituted the radio, television, cable and telecommunication spectrum.

The new rulers undermined accountability and acted in breach of the law. Public monies were spent without parliamentary approval and in violation of the constitution. More and more the line was blurred between democracy and dictatorship.

The last straw was a threat to withdraw recognition of the sugar workers’ union— GAWU; and the manipulation of the process to select the presidential candidate for the 2011 elections. The Stalinist bunch staged a virtual coup by which they grabbed the presidency. I decided that I’d had enough, and I walked. Sita walked with me.”

GOAL OF NATIONAL UNITY In walking, I also recommitted to the goal of national unity. I ended the book with these words: “For me, in this last leg of a long journey, I am still confident that my strivings for national unity through a genuine multi-party democratic and honest Guyanese Government will at long last be achieved.

It will not, however, come without struggle and without further sacrifices. I am ready. I am ready to start the struggle all over again.”

A handful of persons picketed me as I walked into the Blairmont Primary School. I later noted that although I have left the PPP, it appeared that the PPP has not left me! PPP supporters still know that had I not been chased out from the party, they would have been “inside the school”, as part of government; and not outside, picketing on the streets! They should now direct their kicks at the Stalinist Gang for betraying the expectations of Cheddi Jagan for a government of national unity. For me, I repeat what I have been saying ever since I left the PPP, “In my father’s house, there is room for all”.

More and more people are worried that, in an oil and gas economy where Guyana is placed among the richest countries of the world, those who follow the PPP’s boycott and confrontational strategy could be locked out from any meaningful role in our “Petro-state”. During a private meeting, a staunch pro-PPP, anti-coalition critic misdirected at me the question: “Aren’t PPP supporters seeing this?” Some PPP supporters may refuse to see the real politics why they are not in government, but most of them accept the reality that Guyana is moving forward. The evidence is right inside their communities in new streets, better drainage, road lamps, etc.

PRETTY GOOD JOB They know that the Coalition could not, in just four years, do miracles; but it is doing a pretty good job. It would not surprise anyone that as elections draw closer, there would be an avalanche of cross-over from the PPP towards the Coalition.

The “newness” we see in almost every village and in hinterland communities is the work of the entire Coalition Government and dedicated public servants in the regions, municipalities, neighbourhoods and Amerindian communities.

Our women ministers have led the way in bringing this newness in how government ought to do its work in the education, health, transport, telecommunications and housing sectors, and in promoting hinterland integration through entrepreneurship. The Bs – buses, boats, bicycles, books and breakfast – remain the most popular innovation of this government. Hats off to Minister Amna Ally for being the engine that drives the “David G” programme.

Kisses are in order for all of them.