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OPINION: NRF Board, VP’s defense: the farces continue

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 March 2022, 15:44 by Denis Chabrol

By GHK Lall

It is strange the lengths to which powerful men would go to rationalize the irrational, to stand up for what makes for little sense, since it is so hollow, so-self-serving.  This was the case recently when the Hon Vice President went public to share, he and (possibly) his government’s position on those nominated by the Opposition for serving on Guyana’s Natural Resources Fund (NRF) board.  For what the Vice President did was confirm the worst-case scenarios and fears of a good number of Guyanese in the article captioned “Jagdeo gives reasons for blocking opposition nominees to NRF Board, refusal to compromise on spending” (Demerara Waves, March 25).  I think what was articulated speaks for itself, as to the direction(s) envisioned by the PPP Government and its leaders.  Since all Guyana know that this Government is really no more and no less than the Vice President, and what he insists upon, this is the sum of what matters related to NRF Board boils down to, in its essences.  It is nothing but what one man, one man alone, harbors in his head with this Fund, this Board, and this representation of Guyana’s oil wealth.  How it is overseen, comes down to the whims, caprices, and dictates of a Guyanese sturdy in troubling, undermining practices.

The Vice President is quoted as saying, that Mr. Dunstan Barrow “has enormous financial skills; he is not an active politician, so we needed that, we needed diversity but not political diversity there.”  This gets curiouser by the moment.  Without knowing anything about Mr. Barrow, other than his tenure at the top in the bauxite industry, I will agree that he had to have had “enormous financial skills” which the Vice President touted.  But what is peculiar here is that convenient position that “he is not an active politician.”  There is apparently a double standard at work in this instance.  For as we are well aware, one doesn’t have to be active, even affiliated, in the hustle of local politics.  All that matters is to have taken a position for a side not the PPP (or against the VP) and that is the end of that, meaning, such Guyanese don’t belong.  It would be helpful if this leader and his defenders were not to insult Guyanese some more by pointing to Mr. Joseph Hamilton or Carl Greenidge, as they serve their purposes.  On the other hand, the mere identification with, and the accompanying suspicion of, taint through contradicting the PPP and the VP is enough to condemn any such Guyanese as undesirable subversives.  The VP is reputed to possess a long and irreversible memory on such things; an elephant is what has made the rounds.

I think that this is what is playing out here.  There is the healthy, but unreasonable, fear on the VP’s part that dissenters and deviationists, no matter how honest, conscientious, and patriotic should not be anywhere inside this NRF Board.  They will see and hear too much regarding how matters play out, and they will understand and know too much of the underhanded practices that could come to characterize the stewardship at the Board level of this crucial oil fund.  According to the Demerara Waves story, the government wanted the Board to remain ‘a technical body’ but when asked what would have been government’s position if the coalition had nominated a technical expert.  Specifically, the VP said that a “number of people there were political and some have pecuniary interest; a couple that were there are doing work for oil and gas companies; accounting work, auditing work; they have pecuniary interest.”

Using this same standard, it would be enlightening to learn of the VP’s position on the Private Sector Commission nominee to the Board, and how he and his entity could be totally divorced from commercial opportunities, or cultivating oil relationships, that serve their own visions and objectives.  If the VP were going to be so brazen as to say that the private sector is lacking in “pecuniary interest” in oil and gas prospects, then he might be the only Guyanese who thinks along those lines.

But, as I interpret matters relative to this NRF Board, it is the VP’s own words that condemn him, sets him up to come across as the worst of unpersuasive leaders, someone with serious interest in how the NRF Board goes about its business.  This is what the VP said: “we needed diversity here, but not political diversity.”  It would be revealing what Guyanese think of that, which clearly paves the way for the improper, the less than straight with this oil fund.  Obviously, this diversity is what the VP determines it to be; the appearance of it, and the farce that it already is.

For this mysterious “diversity” of the VP comes down this: the PPP wants no pushback from any objecting human source, not even a whiff of it, no matter how constructive.  The PPP and VP have neither patience nor tolerance for clashing positions regarding the recommendations and dispositions involving precious oil money.  The diversity that the VP markets is where all members of the NRF Board speak his language.  That is, get on with it, don’t waste time; discussions must follow a preconceived path: all must agree swiftly, and the quicker the better.  Which is why there his loading up of the Board.   All directors must think alike, there must be absolute confidence in that, which is why these shams about “diversity” and “pecuniary interest” are nothing more than political window dressing.

Guyanese are familiar with these pretenses where oil and gas are concerned.  There are public consultations that are a joke; and Environmental Protection Agency that is a bigger comedy.  All are supposed to think alike and get with the PPP and the VP’s program.  It is not in the interest of Guyana with this oil.  Not when there are this twisting and turning in the wind, cunning attempts to destroy Guyana’s promise more.