The Vice News interview of Bharat Jagdeo is clearly a classical hatchet-job, a clumsy attempt at character-lynching and character-assassination. Bharat Jagdeo does not need to defend himself, neither does he need anyone of us to defend him. The ugly attempt to link him to bribery on a make-up allegation is transparent and obvious. It was nothing more than an attempt to introduce another of a long list of made-up corruption stories, with no evidence, real or circumstantial. But the motivation and intention were clear – the obvious objective is to pressure the government to abandon the One China Policy. Guyanese must stand up to Vice News and let them know that we are not stupid. They must know that we may have our differences, but we will not permit them to use us in their wars and battle. Guyana’s foreign policy is based, has always been based, on a non-aligned trajectory.
The One China Policy in Guyana is not new, has been in place for decades, across different governments. Guyana is not unique in the Region or around the world in maintaining a One China Policy. Most CARICOM countries have sustained a One China Policy for decades now. Most of the world has done so for decades, the most recent count being more than 180 countries. The US has recognized the One China Policy since 1979. Guyana’s practice and support for the One China Policy dated back way beyond Bharat Jagdeo’s entry into government. The incident of reversing a decision to allow Taiwan to establish an office in Guyana soon after the PPP assumed office again in 2020 was due to an unauthorized decision by a low-level official who had no authority to give permission. The reversal was a recall of permission to formally establish a Taiwanese office, there was never a reversal of the One China Policy, a reversal that could only be made by Cabinet.
The Vice Reporter was clearly obsessed by an anti-China hysteria. The narrative that a Chinese national had made allegations that Bharat Jagdeo takes bribes from Chinese companies is an obvious hatchet job, implemented with the fervor of a lynch-mob. She had no tangible evidence and the circumstantial argument the Vice News reporter used was not just clumsy; they were completely wrong, absolutely incorrect. The Linden to Mabura Road, the first part of completing the road to Brazil, was a project that the PPP government has publicly discussed for more than a decade. It is funded by the Caribbean Development Bank. Nothing was done during the 2015-2020 period to advance this project. The PPP completed all the preliminary work since it came back to government and there was an international public tender in accordance with Guyana’s laws and with the rules and regulations of the CDB. There were a number of bidders, mostly from international contractors, mostly from China. After a thorough evaluation process, an award was made to a Brazilian firm to construct the road from Linden to Mabura. The Vice News Reporter ignored these facts, although she must have known them because all of this information is public knowledge, widely reported in Guyana. The reporter clearly had ulterior motives.
A second project that the Vice News Reporter flagged in which bribery is alleged is the Demerara River Bridge. This project has been on the table and in the news since before 2013. The project went through several corrupt transactions during 2015 and 2020. The PPP has advanced the project, a tender process was in place and a number of bidders have been evaluated. A Chinese firm was selected and the Minister of Infrastructure has indicated that the negotiations have stalled and the government is considering moving to the second-ranked bidder. The Vice News Reporter ignored these facts which have been widely published.
The third and fourth projects the Vice News reporter alleged that Bharat Jagdeo was bribed for have not yet been tendered and awarded, not even close to this stage. The Schoonard to Parika Road in Region 3 is one that the PPP has planned. It has not yet been designed, not yet tendered and, therefore, to say the Chinese got this contract and that Jagdeo was bribed is nonsense and classical character-assassination. The same for the Annandale to Mahaica extension project. Just these examples show that Vice News was not interested in accuracy, they had a plan to inject suspicion because they know that many people, especially the usual suspects, will jump on the story. They knew before hand that there is nothing in the way of concrete evidence, even circumstantial, but they sought to start a controversy. They are counting on the usual suspects.
Aubrey Norton has jumped on the bandwagon created by Vice News of the USA. He has called for a “matching of Jagdeo’s earnings and assets”. Bharat Jagdeo has lived and worked in Guyana all his life, except when he was studying abroad. Bharat Jagdeo has been a public servant since he was a teenager, except when he was studying abroad. During his time as Minister of Finance, as President of Guyana and as Opposition Leader, his opponents have accused him of being a dictator, of being arrogant, of helping his friends and have called him all kinds of despicable names. But they have never been able to point their fingers against him for personal corruption. One of the main purposes for SARA was to go after Jagdeo. APNU/AFC expended more than $1B and could not come up with anything.
Now Vice News decided to interview Jagdeo and, without any basis, had the temerity to ask him if he takes bribes from Chinese companies. They had no specific allegations, other than the street-like hearsays. He answered them. All he could say is that any story of him being bribed is false. He could not deny any specific allegation because there was none presented. Vice News did not have any evidence of bribery, other than hearsay. But Bharat Jagdeo agreed to an interview and answered all questions posed to him, calmly, without being angry. The local news headline is “Jagdeo denied taking bribes”, clearly implying there is a real story there. There is none.
No present politician in Guyana has had a longer period in submitting financial and asset information to the Integrity Commission as Bharat Jagdeo and Gail Teixeria. Jagdeo’s integrity commission forms have been submitted since Cheddi Jagan had established the integrity commission, in 1997, first headed by Bishop George. It was under Bharat Jagdeo as President after 1999 that the Commission benefited from increased budgetary allocation so that it could effectively carry out its mandate. Bharat Jagdeo has submitted his integrity commission forms every single year since then. His bank accounts have been scrutinized by the APNU/AFC government. In the Caribbean, no politician has been subjected to as much scrutiny. After more than 30 years in the political limelight in high positions, no one has been able to point their fingers at him with any real evidence of corruption.
What we do know is that a number of officials have consistently refused or have not been incompliance with the Integrity Commission rules. Most of these non-compliant officials are APNU/AFC leaders. Jagdeo and the PPP ministers and officials have nothing to hide.
When he was President, one of the corruption practices that existed was engineers or other officials working with contractors to give the engineers’ estimates for projects. Thus, some contractors were able to provide project costs that were close to the engineer’s estimates and have an advantage of submitting winning bids. As President, he recommended a change in policy that required the publication of the engineers’ estimate, prior to the tender process. This was to remove any unfair advantage anyone would have.
Every single day, investors from Guyana, CARICOM, the US, Canada, the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India and China come to Guyana. One of their stops is Bharat Jagdeo. Are all of them bribing Jagdeo? Why is it only the Chinese who are accused? This is brutal anti-China hysteria, nothing more, nothing less. We must reject this ugly attempt by a reporter from Vice News to drag Guyana into America’s competition with China.
Dr. Leslie Ramsammy
February 9, 2022