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The controversy continues around the issuance of the two Seabob Fishing Licences. The Ministry of Agriculture has issued a statement saying that a Mr. Rampersaud Sookhdeo from La Jalousie, West Coast Demerara, was granted the two licences. The statement described Mr. Sookhdeo as a Guyanese who was operating in Trinidad for the past fifteen(15) years but recently had to return to Guyana because of the COVID-19 restrictions and regulations in Trinidad.
The Stabroek News article, reports the Guyana Association of Trawlers Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP) as having no knowledge of Mr. Rampersaud Sookhdeo.(Trawler owners say they have never heard of the holder of the controversial licences, News, S. 3rd Feb 2021.)
The Minister has been recorded, claiming that the new Licencee is a Guyanese who is well-known and well-established in the Fishing industry. However, the GATOSP has no knowledge of, nor information about, him nor his Trinidadian company, Haseed Enterprise. This leads to the questions, “Well-known to who?” and, “What is considered well established?”
This now opens the door to insinuations of corruption, cronyism and nepotism surrounding the two licences.
Who is Mr. Sookhdeo? What is his connection to the Minister of Agriculture? What is his connection to the PPP? Why are the Minister and the PPP Government and as whole, willing to take so much reproval for this man?
Unfortunately, Guyana has inherited systems from the British Colonials, which we have kept to our (the population’s) detriment but to our Governments’ benefit. The British employed systems which were designed to centralise the power and authority into the hands of a few persons, trusted by them. These people were the ones who gave, if pleased, or who took away, if displeased. Fifty five (55) years after independence, we continue to use those systems. We continue to concentrate the powers into the hands of the few Ministers of whichever Political Party is in Government at the time.
We desperately need to change these antiquated systems, which continue to allow for: corruption, cronyism and nepotism to occur and become rampant. There is limited transparency and democracy within these systems.
No Minister should have the power to grant or revoke Fishing Licences or any other such, for that matter. The Minister should be a policy maker and not the granter of benefits. Corruption, cronyism and nepotism are rampant in third World countries because our Governments refuse to change the systems left to us by the Colonials. Our Governments benefit from these systems and choose not to change them because they are used to control their populations. Some members of Government believe they are better than and above the rest of the population and can therefore e.g, issue and/or revoke licences at their will. This type of system is abhorrent.
Our present Government has the golden opportunity at-hand, to start changing these systems. New systems which are fully transparent should be developed and installed, in order to combat the corruption of the present one, and the bribery which has become the norm in it.
For example, with the issuance of Fishing Licences, the Fisheries Department can determine, in consultation with the GATOSP, how many licences are needed for the Industry to be economically viable and sustainable. The agreed number of licences could then be sold at a yearly, public auction, which would have a starting bid price of an agreed amount, maybe $1,000,000 per licence. Each trawler would be required to have a licence. There is presently a limit of eighty-seven (87) trawlers for the Seabob Industry. An auction of the licences for these eighty-seven trawlers would bring in a minimum of eighty-seven million dollars ($87,000,000) yearly.
A system such as this, will remove the authority for issuing a Seabob Fishing Licence from the Minister. It will be transparent, everyone will know who has made a bid for a licence and for how much. A licence will be only valid for twelve (12) continuous months. Trawlers found operating without a valid licence should be impounded and the owner(s) taken before the Courts. This type of public auction can be repeated for each of the different types of licences issued for trawlers.
This system would not be foolproof, but it would remove the claims of: corruption, cronyism and nepotism from being attached to the Minister and allows for much more transparency than the present system does.