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OPINION: Step down, Mr. Patterson or Mr. Granger please step in

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January 2021, 10:37 by Denis Chabrol

by GHK Lall , 21st January. 2021

I am following closely the developments involving former Minister of Public Infrastructure, Mr. David Patterson, over that specific gift of jewelry.  The more I read and absorb, the more I am sickened and incensed.  I am also deeply embarrassed, given my previous identification with the coalition group.  The way that he responded to the first revelations of that half million jewelry item, conveys so much of what is wrong here, and what has become the abiding characteristic of the way the people’s business is conducted in this society.

Mr. Patterson said things to the effect that he didn’t know anything of such; he didn’t receive anything; and he didn’t have any inkling of the underpinnings of such a personally degrading allegation.  The next subterfuges from the fertile mind of Mr. Patterson were first to retreat behind a fence of silence, and then to put some distance between himself and what was being hurled at him.  Perhaps, his hope was that, like so many other material matters in Guyana, this would also fade away in the rush of other competing public issues.  But apparently, he miscalculated, for matters only got worse with every passing day.

For although no one at the Demerara Harbor Bridge was saying anything, the newspapers were awash with invoice and description and associated cost, compliments of a damning audit report.  Interestingly enough, that same audit report came in for sharp criticism from Mr. Patterson himself, as being ‘selective.’  Regardless of the former minister’s words and prior actions, he now stands condemned, and this time by his own words, which stands as a belated, but a still somewhat hedged confession of sorts.  I say, ‘somewhat hedged’ and ‘confession of sorts’ because the embattled and now exposed former minister is still engaged in protective rearguard action, even as he retreats with the disgraceful accompanying him.

I tender this because Mr. Patterson is on record with the defiant: he ‘assumed’ and rules were followed, and whatever else persuades him that he has a leg on which to stand.  As I listen to all this, my position is simple and straight.  Should someone-a staff member, a constituent, even a friend-turn up with a gift for a half million dollars (even for a twentieth of that amount), of taxpayers’ money, I would recoil.  I would recoil in sharp anger, I would cringe in disbelief, I would shudder in fear.  Fear because I would want to know who is trying to set me up, or dares to entertain such an intent.  I would lash out at the courier delivering such a gift with the following unambiguous positions and questions.

What is this for?  Why is this believed to be necessary?  Who is responsible for this?  And are you really bringing this to me?  I would summon all responsible for such a brainwave, assuming that it originated at their level, and give them a verbal tongue lashing that they would remember for the rest of their sorry existences.  And then, not satisfied with that, I would send a few people home, if only to send the strongest message.  To send a message of the standards that are personally observed, the values cherished, and the kind of man that I am.  This is what honorable public servants entrusted with the welfare of the people do.  They do not jump all over the place, as Mr. Patterson is doing with one unpersuasive defense after another.  They do not add insult to injury, through laughable attempts at damage control that only make them look even more foolish, and still more contaminated.

Having said all of this, there is one more thing I have left to say.  The first is that former minister Patterson is not a fit and proper person to be either in parliament or heading any Public Accounts Committee.  He should not be there at all.  Therefore, he has one way out of this mess that gives him an opportunity to save some face and regroup for whatever comes later.  He has to fall on his sword and resign from that responsibility, and he must do so without further delay.  And if Mr. Patterson, for some strange reason appealing to only him, decides that he must stay and that he will, then the burden shifts to former president David Granger, and current Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Joseph Harmon, to do the only thing that can be done in the circumstances.  Either or both must influence Mr. Patterson to step down right now, and if he fails to do so, then they must be rid of him, and most unceremoniously, too.

Citizens of Guyana deserve the confidence building boost that would assuredly come from such corrective and timely action.  Supporters of the coalition would feel that their trust will not be further misused and mangled.  And I would believe that there is still some sliver of dignity and honor that is still left in this country.