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It is hard to offer any comments on Guyana’s public affairs, without reminding readers that the Government is likely to interpret right and wrong in the political provisions taken by activists on either side. It was the present Attorney General who declared very early in the life of the newly elected government. “The victory of the PPP represents the triumph of good over evil.” This can only mean that ethical behavior on the part of the winner is automatic. In other words, “we cannot be in the wrong, since we are on the side of good that won.”
Early in July, 2021, as Guyanese everywhere were occupied with the effects of the widespread flooding and of less than encouraging news on the health front, together with reports of incidents of violent crime, news leaking in from a foreign newspaper suddenly gripped our attention. The leader of the Opposition in Parliament was being quoted as demanding answers from the Minister of Health regarding allegations in a Norway newspaper that some governments, including Guyana, were being regarded as implicated in vaccine trade transactions outside of the regular. Soon after this, a Guyanese lawyer and SC, whose comments I have quoted before for fairness, appeared on global span and cautiously repeated some of the questions put by Mr. Harmon to Minister of Health, Dr. Anthony. SC Jonas described the questions put by the leader of the Opposition as “not unjustified “. Out of the exchange of the sitting of the National Assembly has risen a no-confidence motion against the Minister of Health. That motion, along with of one against the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Robeson Benn, may already be on the Assembly’s order paper.
The exchanges at home in Guyana have been centered on the highly-inflated price paid by the Guyana Government for the vaccines. The exchanges also centered on the method of procurement employed by a government that had just won a lot of approval by ordering audits of the out-going ministers and departments from which its own members took over. The current Opposition highlighted the fact that the money paid for the Sputnik vaccines from Russia had not appeared in the budgets of the in-coming PPP Administration. It is and has been my position that financial irregularity cannot be tolerated without harm to the general public. In the case of the Sputnik purchases admitted by the Minister of Health, the worst practices, rather than best practices, seemed to be the example followed. It is hoped that citizens, opposed to all form of corruption, will in the coming exchanges enforce the duty of accountability on friends and foes alike. However, there is another issue that runs the risk of being neglected.
If we go back to November, 2020 when Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum arrived in Guyana and rightly received all of the proper courtesies from the Guyanese hosts, we are struck with screaming omission from the ministry of truth.
It seems that once elected officials appointed by the “”victorious good”, we can all ignore financial regulations created to keep ordinary mortals in line. So we have the picture of a Minister of Health moving dutifully with his ministry’s check book in his pocket, looking for bargains. Being a member of the GOOD side, financial regulations were not made for him, but apply strictly only to those on the other side of the aisle. The validity of the expenditure on the Sputnik vaccine will hopefully be examined in the National Assembly and its organs.
The issue I want to raise here is also constitutional and relates to ethical issues, such as concealment and deception. I am trying to be as fair as humanly possible in these comments. However, having made all the allowances for human error and absentmindedness, I want to ask readers whether they can think of any valid reason that Guyanese were not told that the distinguished guest of November, 2020 was not only an international investor, but also a vaccine agent. I have no evidence of the corruption hinted at in the Norway newspaper and including Guyana. However, I can only come to the conclusion, until I can be convinced differently, that all the chatter about investment and all the other details thrown at the public by the Guyana Government during the November, 2020 visit were designed to disguise the real purpose of the Sheikh’s visit. I can think of no reason why the visitor, who was pursuing his own business activity, would have requested his hosts not to disclose his role in the distribution of the Sputnik vaccine. The withholding of this information was clearly the work of Guyana’s ministry of truth in its desire to deceive the public about a transaction not in accordance with best practices. What is very transparent in all of this is the attempt to deceive.
It is for good reasons that all ministers and heads of departments are required to take the oath of office before they begin to function in those positions. The Oath reads:
OATH OF OFFICE
I, ……………….. do hereby solemnly declare that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the People of Guyana, that I will faithfully execute the office of ……………….. without fear or favour, affection or ill-will and that in the execution of the functions of that office I will honour, uphold and preserve the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.
“To bear true faith and allegiance to the People of Guyana” includes not issuing public statements, such as those issued in November, 2020 and aimed at concealing the only known business transaction to come out of the visit. It is a breach of faith and is no more defensible than the act of another minister who accepted gifts of a value well in excess of the value prescribed by law.
I have noted with relief news of the fact that the second dose of Sputnik vaccine has been received. In India, the importing Reddy Lab insisted on receiving both the first and second doses, before attempting to dispense this vaccine.
This whole thing made me compose a chant:
The Sheikh’s visit to our President was welcome
but not so transparent;
Dem tell we he come fuh mek investment
but de man was a top-class vaccine agent.
Oh me mumma, what a matta!
All dem that help hide the reason fuh de mission should be called up before de integrity commissian.