…dismisses views of US expert on PPP’s likely win
THE APNU+AFC Coalition, Monday night, slammed what it described as a mischievous Demerara Waves report under the headline “PPP ‘likely’ to win next elections but tighter anti-corruption efforts needed – US expert”.
The article quotes one Robert Ellis who is styled as a United States State Department ‘advisor’. “We wish to advise that the report from which Demerara Waves cherry picked just a few words is in fact 24 pages and 9,995 words long,” the coalition said in a statement Monday evening.
“We also wish to advise the Guyanese public that Mr. Ellis is a ‘known asset’ of a certain lobbying firm in Washington DC, USA. This firm has known connections to the PPP. The Guyanese public is aware that this very firm is being paid tens of millions of dollars by the PPP and is tasked with whitewashing that party’s tainted and tattered image,” the coalition noted.
According to the coalition the use of a few select words, taken completely out of context, smacks of desperation by the PPP and its agents. “Theirs is an attempt to dupe the Guyanese public into believing that the PPP stands any chance of returning to government. It also illustrates that the PPP is attempting to distract from their beleaguered presidential candidate, dishonest Irfan Ali, and their recent disastrous manifesto launch.”
According to the coalition it is interesting to note as well that the so-called “expert” admitted that the PPP regime has a legacy of corruption, victimization, nepotism and narcotocracy. “That is the PPP’s real and true image and that is in their DNA. The PPP is not to be trusted, it is not reformed and it is the same old cabal with the same kleptocracy agenda. No high-priced Washington lobbying firm with a bucket of whitewash can mask that from the Guyanese people who are very familiar with the unending list of development work being done by the APNU+AFC Coalition Government which has initiated a nationwide development overdrive,” the coalition statement read.
The coalition said on the other hand, not only is the PPP trapped in its image of being obscenely and grotesquely corrupt but several of its leaders are either facing court trials or being investigated for criminal conduct
Meanwhile, Ellis has provided no statistic or hard data to support his claim and the statement was found to be personal sentiments of the author. The sentiments were made in a publication titled “Security Challenges in Guyana and the Government Response” compiled by Latin American Studies Research Professor of the US Army War College, Dr. Evan Ellis. However, news of its existence and contents broke on the DemeraraWaves website which also acknowledged that Dr. Ellis “did not give any reason for his conclusion”.
According to his bio, Dr. Ellis’ studies focused on Latin America’s relations with China and other non-Western Hemisphere actors and he has presented an array of his work in a wide range of commercial and government forums in 25 countries. Several of the academic’s references in the journal came from his own interviews, local media outlets, overseas outlets and at times, his own publications and himself, cited as “Ellis, 2019” or “Ellis, 2013”.
His comment on the “likely return of the PPP to power” was cited at the end of the journal as “Ellis, 2019”. At the point of his remarks, Dr. Ellis was refencing to the likeliness of major projects to be awarded to Chinese and funded by revenues from oil under the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP). He had earlier highlighted that under the PPP Administrations of Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar, a number of China-related projects were questionably awarded.
These he listed as the abandoned US$800M Amaila Falls hydroelectric project; the renovation of Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA); the acquisition of the Omai bauxite mine by the Chinese firm Bosai; construction of the Skeldon sugar factory; the construction of electricity transmission infrastructure by the Chinese firm China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation (CEIEC); telecommunications cables and other projects by the Chinese firm Huawei; an education program supplying Chinese Haier-built laptop computers to impoverished Guyanese families; logging concessions awarded to the Chinese firm Bai Shan Lin; the construction of a new Marriott Hotel by Shanghai Construction Group and more.
Dr. Ellis said that the growing presence of the Chinese in commercial projects and security sector activities creates “strategic concerns for the US” and that while the PPP has expressed an interest to work closely with the US and Western investors, “such projects are likely to give the Chinese particular weight in the economic and political dynamics of the country in a future PPP government”. In subsequent recommendations, he stated: “Under the APNU-AFC government of David Granger, the nation was making meaningful, if slow progress in combatting corruption and reforming its institutions. While the PPP governments which preceded it manifested relatively competent administration and a pro-business orientation, the accusations of corruption, and their level of cooperation with leftist populist regimes such as Venezuela, as well as the PRC, arguably caused discomfort in Washington.”
Nonetheless, the Guyana Chronicle fact checked some of additional information within the publication where he touched on longtime challenges of Guyana such as illegal mining, money laundering and drug and human trafficking. Dr. Ellis stated: “Guyana is both an exporter of marijuana to Brazil and a transit country for cocaine. Granger administration Finance Minister Winston Jordan has asserted (with strong objections from the opposition PPP) that a substantial amount of the country’s economy depends on the proceeds from narcotrafficking.”
However, the Guyana Chronicle’s research showed that Minster Jordan has not stated that the economy “depends” on the proceeds from narcotrafficking but rather that this is what kept it afloat under the PPP regime.
Minister of Citizenship and former Commissioner of Police, Winston Felix, said in 2019: “It was under their watch that contraband smuggling was prevalent, narco- trafficking and gun-running were common place, gun crimes were at an all-time high, drug death squads roamed the streets causing over 400 unsolved murders, human trafficking was common place, crimes such as bribery, armed robberies, arson, inter personal violence, murder, piracy, rapes all increased under the PPP/C. The GPF was starved of the resources and training they badly needed.”
He noted that the National Anti-Narcotics Agency (NANA) was established by the coalition government to tackle drug trafficking. As a result, there has been an increase in narcotic seizures, with over 800kg of cocaine, 65,000kg of cannabis, 1,900kg of heroin seized in 2017 and 2018 while Guyanese authorities initiated 503 prosecutions and convicted 227 individuals for narcotics trafficking during the same period. He also credited intelligence gathering through CCTV cameras and the establishment and training of special police units.
Also, the government has been working with local and international agencies to ensure Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) measures are put in place. “Guyana has shown strong political will to combat money laundering and has made progress on the AML front,” U.S Department of State established in its 2019 U.S International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume II: Money Laundering.
In his opening paragraphs, Dr. Ellis also referenced the attempt of a Venezuelan navy helicopter to land on a ship contracted by ExxonMobil conducting seismic survey in December 2018. He said that Guyana’s current political crisis has the potential to “invite opportunistic challenges to Guyana’s sovereignty by neighbouring Venezuela and Suriname”.
However, thinking ahead to such threats is why President David Granger, Attorney General, Basil Williams and several other political heads of government had stressed the importance of the rightful interpretation of Guyana’s Constitution which, at no time, leaves room for the country to exist without a president or government. “My government has held to this position at all times – the country cannot be left without a government. The country’s borders, natural resources, sovereignty and territorial integrity must be protected and its international obligations fulfilled. Citizens must be provided with public services at the central, regional and local levels to ensure their welfare,” President Granger reasoned on September 19, 2019 when the Opposition protested for the opposite.
Article 106 (7), of the Constitution states: “Notwithstanding its defeat, the government shall remain in office, and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall, by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
Dr. Ellis played heavily on the “prospect for violence” in Guyana based on the current “political crisis” and what he relayed as impending dissatisfaction of Guyanese following the outcome of the 2020 elections. “Whatever the outcome, a significant number of Guyanese will be highly dissatisfied with the outcome and convinced that their interests can no longer be protected through traditional democratic mechanisms, raising the prospect for violence,” the scholar wrote.
However, the current “political crisis” in Guyana coupled with the coming elections have only resulted in several small parties emerging from various demographics to contest — nothing strange to the elections season in Guyana. The country’s main political parties and their supporters have fixed their attention towards the campaign season while the government has long accepted and acts in interim status awaiting the swearing in of a new government come 2020. At the same time, the Venezuelan territorial claim, through the current government’s efforts, will be legally settled once and for all by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in March 2020.