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According to Transparency International “Corruption erodes trust, weakens democracy, hampers economic development and further exacerbates inequality, poverty, social division and the environmental crisis.” For years Guyana was rated the most corrupt country in the English-speaking Caribbean. It was only in the last four years the country was improving its rating on the Transparency Corruption Index..
The haste at which the three-month-old Irfaan Ali administration is moving to dismantle agencies that were established to fight corruption and drug trafficking should not escape attention. The National Anti-Narcotic Agency (NANA) was recently disbanded. This agency was established under the coalition administration to fight the drug problem. For years Guyana has been known as a major drug transshipment point. It has been estimated by reputable persons and agencies that about 40-60 percent of our economy was contaminated with dirty money (drugs money).
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement (Europol) reminds drug trafficking is “related to other criminal activities, such as the rank exploitation of labourers; create a strain on government institutions; are linked to terrorist activities; have a serious impact on legitimate business; drag down the wider economy, [and] have untold consequences for individuals, families and communities.”
Two weeks ago the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) was shuttered. This agency’s mission was to “aggressively pursue corruption, the theft of state Assets & to nurture transparency in the use of Government & public Asset.” The government’s excuse was that the agency was not properly established and they will create a new one. They refuse to wait for the Court’s ruling to determine whether this was so.
Very early in the administration the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped the charges of corruption against Mr. Irfaan Ali when he was minister of housing and the charge of alleged theft of law books against Mr. Anil Nandlall when he served as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs during the Donald Ramotar government.
There is a pattern appearing here and the dots not hard to connect. On one hand, the DPP is being used to prevent persons appearing before the courts to defend charges against them. On the other hand, government agencies that are supposed to prevent corruption and fight the narco-trade are being disbanded. The guardrails of democracy are being dismantled, brick by brick.
It would be difficult to discourage perception that the court issues are not clear efforts to tip the scale of justice in favour of one not based on judicious determination, that is, bypassing the utilisation of the judicial system and relying on abuse of political power.
The closure of state agencies raises eyebrows whether the government is serious about fighting drugs, dirty money, and corruption by politicians, government officials and public servants. It gives rise to concern that it could mean the floodgates are thrown open for unsavory practices to once again permeate the society.
The government would find it difficult to convince anti-corruption advocates the scourge of corruption will not creep back into its management. No doubt the international community would be taking note. All Guyanese must too take note. Allowing corruption to go uncheck will adversely impact every Guyanese. It matters not if you support or do not support the government or opposition or are politically neutral.
Transparency International warns, “Exposing corruption and holding the corrupt to account can only happen if we understand the way corruption works and the systems that enable it.” Guyanese know only too well how.
Many lived through the horrors of the turf wars, the get rich quick syndrome, and flaunting of the nouveau riche among private and public officials, including politicians. People were afraid to speak out in order to avert reprisals. People were afraid to be on the streets, worst particularly at nights. Law enforcement and the judiciary were rendered impotent by rogue officials. These weren’t pleasant nor safe times and only the corrupt would desire a return to the days of the Wild West. Hence, efforts to have democracy flourish, crime and corruption eliminated through SARA and NANA were worthwhile. These agencies should not have been shuttered, at least not without replacement.