It has been brought to my attention that the Opposition Leader used part of a recent press conference to respond to comments I made in a section of the local media regarding reports that some members of the government service have been acting as political spies for the PPP. Prior to the reporter’s call, I had over time received reports from some ministries and other government agencies of this phenomenon. From all indications those engaged in this behaviour are generally persons who were specially placed in the public service by the previous government or are genuine public servants who were cultivated by the PPP. It is my understanding that this group of persons are not all Indian Guyanese; in fact, it is estimated that the majority of them are African Guyanese.
Reporters who have dealt with me over the years will tell you I am usually very detailed with responses to their questions. Often some of it does not make it into the news report because of space or time constraint—media houses tend to concentrate on the aspects of comments that they deem newsworthy and or which are in line with the objective of the story. For these reasons, the news story which caused Mr. Jagdeo much distress did not include all of my reasoning and the totality of my comments which would have given some more context to them. Hence the reason for this missive.
I am in no way blaming the reporter because there was enough in the story for Mr. Jagdeo to understand what I was saying. The reporter asked for my comments and cited two instances which involved Ministers Patterson and Jordan respectively. In my response I made six major points. First, I said that the politicization of the public service is a post-colonial phenomenon that has hindered the efficiency of government service and has encouraged corruption among other forms of bad governance. Second, I made a clear distinction between career public servants or whistleblowers and political spies or “moles” acting as public servants. The career public servant reposts malpractices to defend the integrity of government while political spies engage in leaking sensitive government information to their party bosses to be overtly used for partisan gains.
Third, I made the point that I am in total support of public servants who expose corruption and other forms of government malpractice as a matter of conscience and principle. Such workers, whether they are called whistleblowers or other names are upholding and defending the dignity of government and doing their country a good turn. It follows that if public servants see instances of corruption by government big boys and girls, they should expose them to the media, to all opposition parties, to other civil society organizations and individuals like myself. That these “reports” are given only or mostly to the PPP should raise eyebrows about the motive of the so-called whistleblowers.
Fourth, I told the reporter that I am against punitive action by government even against proven political spies and moles. It is against that background that I called for an independent Commission of Inquiry aimed at determining to what extent this problem is embedded in the Public Service and eventually flushing such elements out of the service.
Fifth, I called for revised guidelines for public servants aimed at ensuring that there is a clear distinction between loyalty to their job on the one hand and their political affiliation on the other hand. Sixth, I argued that the prevalence of PPP spies in the service would force the PNC to install its own counterspies which would have the effect of turning the public service into sites of party contestation.
Finally let me say this. At no time the reporter asked me to comment on anything that has to do with the WPA Minister. That was purely Mr. Jagdeo’s insertion which was obviously done to give the impression that my comments were driven by some personal or partisan motive. Mr. Jagdeo also revealed that his moles and spies are African Guyanese as if to say that the ethnicity of the spy makes the infraction less wrong. He knows that that has been his approach when it comes to neutralizing the PNC—use African Guyanese as spies and enforcers within their communities—and he knows my opposition to and distaste for that.
I have also noted that PPP supporters on social media and beyond have taken to their old ways—David Hinds is a racist. Only yesterday, these people were lauding this very racist for criticizing the government. It is perhaps the sickest aspect of our political culture—the inability of our parties and their faithful to take criticisms and the readiness to cast the critic in racist terms. It is why young people don’t bother to be critical, for they fear the vitriol that comes with it. It is why we continue to be mired in substandard governance because the latter are assured that they would not be held sufficiently accountable by their supporters. And they do not take opposition seriously because even their most justified protests are clothed in partisan bad mindedness.
But some of us would not be deterred from trying to bring reason to this political and intellectual chaos. I have said that the Coalition is my electoral preference—barring some political tsunami they will get my vote. But that’s where it ends. I have no automatic love affair with any party or government. My support has to be earned. Similarly, I am for Black Empowerment, but I am not for Black Slackness. That’s where I stand.