More Scandals, Cronyism, Corruption and Confusion in the Coalition
entered the New Year embroiled in protests and revelations of more scandals and executive lawlessness. The protests are gaining in number and all seem to be large or “mass” in nature. That is to say they attracted considerable numbers of peaceful but agitated citizens. The early January peaceful protests have attracted from 50 to as much as 220 persons. The geographic spread, too, is also of interest - in Region 10 and Region 5. The protests are manifestations of the push back of the poor and powerless against the exploding blunders of the APNU+AFC Administration and its imposition of arbitrary interventions and its disregard for the rule of law. Two major “mass” protests were in full swing last week.
Two “protests” stand out - firstly the West Berbice Farmers’ picketing of the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) over its recent increases in land rentals. And secondly, the peaceful gathering of residents from five Communities in the area of the Linden/ Kwakwani Road junction supported by dozens of aggrieved motor vehicle drivers to protest the gross neglect of the road serving these communities. Noteworthy is the vast difference in geographical locations and backgrounds of the protestors and the natures of their complaints. Note, too, the unresponsiveness of the Authorities.
At the same time the emerging scandal surrounding the Government’s secret deal with a Trinidad firm for the possible takeover of the lucrative GUYSUCO Skeldon Sugar Estate is generating more disquiet and concern in wide cross-sections of the population. And as if this was not enough disturbing revelation in the very first few weeks of the New Year, more was to follow in quick fashion. It is now public knowledge that a lawsuit has been filed by Banks (DIH) against the Guyana Revenue Authority, (GRA) for some 28.5 billion worth of consumption taxes and interest which the company says it overpaid to the tax body due to a legal error. The beverage company is claiming the sum as a refund for the period of 2001 to 2007.
People Progressive Party/Civic General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, had predicted this eventuality several months ago. The trained economists had immediately commented comprehensively on the issue when the PNC/ APNU+AFC administration had first revealed that it had given a similar waiver to another local beverage company -- DDL. The General Secretary had stated so many months ago that the APNU/ AFC Government was setting a bad precedent by settling a court matter with DDL. The Opposition Leader opined that the Banks DIH court action now emerging vindicates his stance on the matter.
The unfolding controversial, arbitrary and non-transparent City Hall Parking Meter project reinforces this perception of widespread disquiet and concern. The non-consultative and arbitrary approach of the APNU-dominated City Council has in the past few days generated concerns, outrage and protest from yet two more sub-sections of our population - the the Guyana Teachers’ Union and the Association of Disabled Persons.
More importantly, this perception is further reinforced by the more recent attempt by APNU+AFC Administration to rig GECOM by undermining Article 161.2 of the Guyana Constitution which speaks to the election of a Chairman for the Commission.
But the latest insult to Guyanese is the move by President Granger to disregard the list of candidates for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission submitted by the Leader of the Opposition as is demanded by the Constitution as a “consensus mechanism”.
The fear is that Granger is setting the stage for the unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful selection of a biased Chairman of the Elections Commission as a first step in rigging the 2020 General Elections as in the Burnham period. Wide sections of the populace, even some supportive of the administration, are apprehensive and shudder at the thought of Guyana going back to the dark Burnham days. The clouds of more protest storms are gathering. This will indeed be a stormy year.
The two mass protests of the very first weeks of 2017, and the DDL scandal are rollovers from the past year. The mood and mode of disquiet and unease seem to be the emerging feature which will characterize our socio-political environment for 2017.