Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017


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PPP Lapses
(Aired 10 November 2002)

    I opened my Sunday November 10th 2002 newspaper and was struck by a few glaring foreign affairs lapses committed by our still naive government. These lapses included our President putting his foot in his mouth, by telling the Surinamese media in Paramaribo that the demilitarized zone of the new river triangle was now manned by the GDF, thereby voiding the agreement between Forbes Burnham and the then PM of Suriname Hank Aaron, more than 30 years ago, to demilitarize the triangle. 

   The ever wile Forbes had agreed to the demilitarization of the new river triangle but he found a way of manning it with the National service, which was not in the strictest sense of the word a military force but which had the same effect. What you should have done Mr. President, was to tell them that you have a small settlement there, and you have a few police officers maintaining law and order.

   What you do not tell them is that these police officers seconded from the GDF are armed to the teeth and ready to defend the triangle with complete competence.

   You know ladies and gentlemen, we keep cussing up Forbes Burnham, sometimes with some justification, but the man was smart and no Jagan or Jagdeo will ever be his intellectual equal.

   This same editorial tells us that the Corentyne river is now totally under the control of the Surinamese Government, does anyone remember our Foreign Affairs Minister, going to Suriname in 1997, just before the elections, and begging the Surinamese Government to allow the Guyanese fishermen to access the Corentyne river with a permit from Suriname, thereby establishing for all time that the Surinamese had a right to stop any Guyanese from even driving a boat in that river. Shame on you, Cement. Were you so desperate to get a few votes that you compromised our national border integrity? Which has repercussions to this day?

   It is also a fact that Mr. Jagdeo went to this meeting with the Surinamese without a translator and did not understand one word of what was being said to him by the Surinamese Government, great performances Ministers of Foreign Affairs, both of you. Despite what Mrs. Jagan says, we understand that Mr. Rohee is not exactly a high wattage bulb, but what is Mr. Insanally's excuse?

    The Stabroek news editorial describes a Foreign Affairs comedy of errors of monumental proportions which defines the incompetence of our Government.

  Just as they have failed the rice industry, the sugar industry, the bauxite industry, the eco tourist industry, the business community and to protect our citizens from criminals, they are now failing us in our border problems with Suriname and Venezuela.    

   In the midst of all of this our Attorney General is telling us, what the Stabroek News concludes are at the very least half truths.

   But what I consider to be the biggest Joke of all, is that we are bending and bowing to the Surinamese because we BELIEVE, only BELIEVE ladies and gentlemen that there is oil in the area between Suriname and Guyana, but we know that we have the capacity to generate 7000 megawatts of electricity in this country the NDS tells us so but we are doing nothing about it. There is no maybe about this national endowment, it is a sure thing. What frightens me is that in the end when this government negotiates a deal with CGX to exploit the Oil, if indeed there is any, given their record so far, they will make a deal which will not benefit the Guyanese people at all.  

   Forbes Burnham understood the importance of hydro power and to the eternal infamy of his name, he was prepared to make any sacrifice to get it, he therefore banned major food items to conserve his foreign exchange so that he could build the Mazaruni Hydro electric facility with our own resources, after the world Bank withdrew the finances for the project because the Venezuelans, supported by the Americans, objected to it claiming that the area was in dispute.

   Exactly the same thing happened in Egypt when one President Gamal Nasser decided to Dam the Nile for Agricultural Irrigation and for hydro power, the World Bank and the US agreed to lend Egypt the one billion US required to build the Aswan High Dam, but then they pulled out of the deal because of the Israeli/Egyptian conflict. Through perseverance and with help from the Russians and seventeen years of sacrifice by the Egyptian people the dam was built and is now contributing in a major way to Egypt's economy and its 70 million people. The Egyptians stood as one people, held strain and got what they wanted. We didn't. I told you in a previous comment that when cheap power is available the private sector will find a way to harness it for industrialization and development, the Aswan dam WHICH produces 175,000 Mega watts, used to provide 54% of Egypt's electrical needs in 1978 but by 1998 it only provided 16% of their total needs. They found a way of using that enormous amount of power to the economic and social benefit of their nation.

   Hydro power is far cheaper than Fossil Fuel power even if you have oil. Venezuela for example is the third largest exporter of oil in the world, but they have huge rivers very much like ours and have developed and are continuing to develop hydro power, 77 % of all electrical power generated in Venezuela is from Hydro power only 23% is from Oil, It would also have reduced our foreign exchange expenditure on fuel by 80% over the past 30 years and that could have paid off our national debt many times over. I am not even going examine the numerous benefits of having our own aluminum smelter over the past 30 years.

   We are getting a second chance at it, and this time it is a private investment, it is more important than this nonsense of another Sugar mill at Skeldon which many of us in the sugar industry, with many years of experience, consider a foolhardy venture filled with too many imponderables. This ridiculous PPP plan, to increase sugar production in Berbice to offset the high cost of production in the Demerara estates, is patent nonsense. Cuba has just closed 71 of their 156 sugar factories. we need another sugar factory in Guyana like we need another hole in our heads. Cuba was producing sugar at 9US cents per Lb. our Berbice estates produce at 13 US cents per Lb. and the Demerara estates produce at 21 US cents per Lb. Cuba has closed half of their sugar industry and we a poor as hell HIPC nation is building a new one, even India is converting 10 mills to produce bulk ethanol and are seeking changes in the law to mix 5% of this ethanol with Gasoline to fuel their cars. Everything I have been telling you is coming to pass, what will not pass is this moronic phase of no vision, no creativity, no imagination and incompetent governance we are experiencing.

   I have told you about the destabilization of the Burnham Government by the PPP calling unnecessary strikes in the sugar industry, one of them lasting over 72 days with the Albion dock workers in 1975, when the price for world market sugar was US 23 cents per pound, I am not saying that it was right or wrong, I am saying that the PPP can't run this country without the full cooperation of the PNC and the PNC can't run it without the full cooperation of the PPP, it is very simple to me, so you will excuse me if I do not understand why neither of these Parties, or our people, will accept it.

  In 1970 the world market price for oil was around 4 dollars US per barrel, by 1980 the world price for oil rose to nearly 40 dollars per barrel, but at the same time the world market price for sugar which was US 4 cents a pound in 1970 peaked in 1974 to nearly US 25 cents a pound but dropped back to US 7 cents a pound by 1982, so at a time when oil prices were rising astronomically, the sugar price was falling like a meteor, if Forbes had gotten his Hydro power plant when the price for sugar was high and the price for oil was low everything would have been different, but the sugar strikes financed by Russian money were concentrated in a period when the price for sugar was high 74/76 and 80/82.

    I am not blaming the indo Guyanese, or Cheddie Jagan, Burnham was not conducting fair elections, and was, to all intents and purposes a dictator, so in retaliation the PPP destabilized his government. But the PPP must stop crying like little children now that the shoe is on the other foot. It is the same phenomenon only the tools of destabilization have changed; now it is marching and civil disobedience! BUT I want it clearly understood that I am convinced that the PNC are not supporting criminals and terrorists. It is a myth created by the PPP to explain their inability to maintain law and order, what are we paying 3.7 Billion dollars to the Home Affairs Ministry this year for?

   Both sides must sit down and write a new constitution which will force both the PPP and the PNC, whichever of them happens to be in power, to work together.

   The citizens of this country have been waiting nearly 50 years for this to happen, we are fed up of waiting.