Last Updated on Sunday, 13 February 2022, 16:29 by Writer
by GHK Lall
Guyana’s Vice President must be given the benefit of the doubt with his spirited denials relative to probing questions about bribe taking on his part (“Jagdeo denies taking bribes from Chinese companies” — Demerara Waves, February 8, 2022). Since the Vice President struggles to come across as an honorable man, an ethical leader, a principled citizen, I think those who are desirous of associating such with him, must be given free rein to do so. After all, he is due to the same standards as every citizen of this society, and it is how the ways of democracy are.
I think and write this, even as I appreciate that as a public figure—one with the most uneven profile, one that casts the longest (and darkest) shadow, one that can generate the greatest disputes as to the richness (not a pun) of his presence and character or the poverty of his principles—he must be held to a higher standard than us lower beings in the ebb and flow of Guyanese humanity. The Vice President has denied taking bribes from Chinese companies, which on paper is a good thing. But in the essences of such things, the real heart and substances of such public postures, the person making them must be of a certain moral sinew, a particular ethical wiring, or DNA if you will.
Mention his name in this country in certain contexts, and there are knowing nods, which are the paler versions of some of the more slashing expressions that flare from lips unsealed. On lots of occasions, there is this paradox, which is another Guyanese mystery: the resigned shrug and shake of shoulder, of palms upwards as if in prayer, are from his own people, diehard supporters and insiders. Now they must know something; more than I know. I know what I know, and I also know what I don’t know.
I know that Chinese companies have a well-earned reputation in the global marketplace for conducting themselves cleverly, and transacting business along known time-honored lines. Both of those defining features, shall I say, do not measure up to what are accepted standards of Western commercial practices. Or, to put in a different way, the leaders and authorized functionaries of Chinese companies know what it takes to get business done in Third World countries, and they do it. Those corporate personnel are neither scouts nor saints, and they do not have any binding operating policies and principles that say some practices are off-limits, and simply not ever to be done. Ethics and money laundering and bribe giving do not enjoy much pride of place or prosperity in elevated Chinese commercial circles. If one wants a clearer picture of how this is delivered in the broader domain, I point to Chinese Communist leaders, and there is proof and pudding. If they could get in the face of an Olympic reporter doing his job on live camera, it does not require much thinking to appreciate how far they will go under the cover of darkness, be it in the realms of politics or business.
As I consider this and present this, I pause at that strange and worrying statement made by the Honorable Vice President (and he is that, if all we have is his word and self-anointing to go on). According to the Demerara Waves article referenced, the Honorable Vice President is reported to have said that he met more American than Chinese companies “not because they are paying a bribe and they can be prosecuted globally”. If I am reading and interpreting this right, my question then is this: since more Americans are interfaced with because “they can be prosecuted globally” why do the big billions that this country has on its plate with companies that can’t be prosecuted globally? Now, if Chinese companies fall into that suspicious and red flag category, I would not want to have any dealings with them, or companies from any other country for that matter.
Naturally, this raises a second question for the sometimes fuzzy, sometimes funny (not to be thought of in a comical manner) Vice President: how come, sir, that Chinese companies are so much present here, and doing so much big business here? Something is not adding up here; but not many things do in Guyana, which has its own brand of leadership mathematics, ethics, acrobatics. To his credit, the Vice President did attest that ‘Guyana’s laws are compliant with global standards to fight financial crimes.’ On this one, there is a moment of rare agreement with the Vice President, a leader and a citizen for whom I have a peculiar kind of regard. I am of the belief that he would not be too thrilled to hear more of it. But, there is always a big but, where the Vice President is concerned, I put before him and all Guyana, something that my American friends (I think they still are) on Duke Street shared with me. They agree about laws, which they helped configure. They have serious concerns, those Americans, as to why nobody has been charged and successfully prosecuted, jailed, and even extradited, under the PPPC (PNC, too) watch.
I sense grounds for denials on that one, too. To sum all this up, the Honorable Vice President took his stance, and for some unearthly reason, I am reminded of Custer’s Last Stand. This Vice News interest, American-based of all places, was neither accidental nor random. The Americans are sending two messages. First, be warned that we know. And the second is that Chinese companies are getting too much, doing too much, and paying too much. Remember, it was America that cleared the way and returned to power.