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OPINION: Government’s anti-corruption vision was a goose that was cooked on many fronts

by GHK Lall

I read that two leading commentators, Ram and Hinds-neither a new accounting firm nor political consulting one-observed that the coalition government has moved away from its once sturdy anti-corruption posture. Rather regrettably, I must agree and strongly so.

Like that other, once arresting vehicle, social cohesion, government’s anti-corruption measures, muscle, and volume all seem a quiet echo of its earlier strident, straight-ahead, take no prisoners approach. For all intents and purposes, anticorruption energies have not shrunk to a quiet echo and pale shadow, but withered, tired, almost nonexistent reflections in both instances. There are multiple reasons for this development; I outline only a few now.

No government, no matter how well-intended, can mount a successful anti-corruption fight of significance when a growing number of its own people-stalwart, influential people-are themselves renowned for being in the same league as their despised predecessors, corrupters in large part. The situation is further worsened when those who were in league before are in still up to their old tricks. Nothing of consequence can attained; and this is one of the reasons why matters do not proceed well towards the courts; or within the courts when they do make their way to that sometimes sorry place. In these instances, the governmental fish does not rot from the head, but from the trunk all the way down to the tail. Some very far-reaching and high-ranking people are known to have been fingered. Their biometrics are conclusive. And for further verification, check their friends; and if that still does not suffice, then trace the histories of both themselves, as well as their friends and neighbors and comrades and fellow travelers. In Guyana, there are no pure communists; only greedy, venal, money-sucking capitalists of the worst sort.

Second, the government’s early anti-corruption engine room (such as it was) powered the zeal to expose the opposition and stick it to the losers and their henchmen. Some of them. There was one particular leading character, who the people (including his own) recognized as an illuminating combination of Machiavelli, Medici, and Ponzi; unsurprisingly, he has exhibited more immunity than all three. So that, too, has stalled. But at bottom, the much lauded and much vaunted anticorruption drive was never really to clean up the incalculable mess left behind, as that would have laid bare partners, peas in pods, and strange bedfellows. The wisdom of hindsight and belated intelligence has convinced that Guyana is a de facto single party state, with membership from the government side and the benches on other side of the parliamentary aisle. They shared before and they share now; the only losers are the voters. Thus, this hullabaloo about government’s anti-corruption vision was a goose that was cooked on many fronts by many hands. From the inception, it was dead on arrival. The few poor souls (untouchables) fighting a
losing battle are left holding baskets; the bottoms are not tarred. To emphasize this point of political collusion, I have heard floated the term “rogue elements.” People in the know were not talking of law enforcement, but of the cabinet of all places. Chew on that salted, pickled morsel.

Third, the old government had so wired, mined, and compromised the bureaucratic machinery that even those who did not support it at the ballot box, benefited immensely and criminally then. Today, those well-entrenched beneficiaries know nothing, find nothing, push nothing. To do so would be self-incriminating. The fallback is taking the Fifth. Again, the well-meaning in the government have very little to work with or on which to construct the sinews of a case. True believers and dogged faithful soldiers are stymied into irrelevance. The chaps on Robb Street are having a good laugh; so, too, are their buddies in Sophia.

Fourth, in the circumstances, it should not be unexpected that the government’s anti-corruption caravan has disappeared into the mists. But here is the kicker and the killer. Even the shortsighted and the lamebrained in this society now discern that the bulk of the populace (from taxi drivers to tycoons and peasants to professionals) has neither interest nor enthusiasm for anything that takes bread out of its mouth and the swagger in its stride. The endless cataracts of dirty money, corrupt money, and hot and easy money made their day. It also made an unimagined opulent lifestyle possible for many bottom feeders and those at every rung up the ladder. Hence, there is no need, no welcome for sheriffs and pietists and party spoilers. I call this the green counterrevolution, Guyana style.

The people want the old hustles and the quick rich pickings; trickle-down economics it surely was. It is what is awaited prayerfully. And the people must not be made to suffer. Of course, these same yearning citizens prioritize loud concerns about crime, quality of life, gangs and drugs in the schools and communities, and guns all over. But they are willing to coexist with all these plagues, as long as the cash keeps coming. The price, though steep, is right.
So whether from the political inside or the larger social environment, the game is up: point, set, match.
The government is compelled to tuck in its head and turn turtle on anti-corruption. The writings are on the wall. Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, the hands are visible and familiar. Goodbye, anti-corruption.