Donald Ramotar not doing anything on the issue of corruption
The Donald Ramotar administration has spent much of the eight months or so that it has been in office fending off demands for independent inquiries into various allegations of corruption said to have been perpetrated during the period when Mr Bharrat Jagdeo’s government was in office. Many of the charges have to do with the alleged illegal use of state resources to enrich friends of the administration and party members.
These charges of corruption are not coming from the PPP/C’s political opponents alone. Even among objective observes with no known political axe to grind there exists a strong conviction that corruption flourished under the Jagdeo administration. Up until now the most significant pronouncement on the corruption issue has been made by former PPP/C stalwart Ralph Ramkarran who, in his June 17 Mirror article, laid claim to an awareness “of enough verifiable cases of corruption“ to be satisfied that it is “pervasive”; and while he conceded that the circumstances made “disclosure” a “major problem” for President Ramotar’s government, he pointed out that it was no longer tenable for the PPP/C administration to sweep the mountain of corruption charges aside with excuses that included calls for “proof,” assertions about the regular publication of the Auditor General’s reports and a declaration of assets to the Integrity Commission. What Mr Ramkarran was apparently saying was that in the matter of corruption the Ramotar administration and the PPP/C were more-or-less cornered.
What Mr Ramkarran also appears to have done is put before the President the options of either opening up the corruption charges to independent scrutiny or continuing to seek shelter behind fragile walls that have long collapsed in the face of the “pervasive evidence” to which he referred. The latter choice, of course, would mean that President Ramotar would, in effect, be mortgaging his own administration to the serious perceived shortcomings of its predecessor.
Of course, the PPP was badly rattled by what Mr Ramkarran had to say about corruption. What his pronouncement meant was that neither the party nor the Ramotar administration could mount a defence against corruption charges based on a circling of the wagons and shrill calls for ‘evidence’ of wrongdoing. Once Mr Ramkarran had spoken there was little that either the Ramotar administration or the party could say in their defence.
Still, up until now the Ramotar administration has shown no inclination to grasp the nettle of corruption. Neither the position taken by Mr Ramkarran nor the demands of the political opposition for investigations into various allegations of corruption have elicited any profound response from the President. This is not a responsibility that the President can evade. By not nailing his colours to the mast on the corruption issue he will continue to be dogged by two problems. First, his agenda will be perceived to include the covering up of the alleged corrupt practices perpetrated under the Jagdeo government. The second point, of course, has to do with the fact that public and private sector functionaries who had been fingered in corruption allegations during Mr Jagdeo’s tenure will be perceived as having retained their closeness to the government under the Ramotar administration.
Whether or not Mr Ramkarran’s hoped for “crusade against corruption by the government” will manifest itself under President Ramotar’s administration will probably depend on the calculation which the President makes as to how such a “crusade” will affect the PPP/C’s political interests. Only the outcome of that political calculation can tell us whether or not the “new dimension” of “aggressive” anti-corruption to which Mr Ramkarran referred is within the President’s reach.
It is the President, in the final analysis, who must make the call. That call has to do with whether or not he can live with being remembered as a President who allowed his term in office to be compromised by the shortcomings of that of his predecessor. Or perhaps it may be that President Ramotar is powerless to retire the continued momentum of a gravy train to the political junkyard. Again, it is to the President that we must look for answers. (SN)