…at Lands and Surveys
OK…OK…we know that Trevor Benn, the present CEO of the Guyana Lands &Survey Commission (GL&SC) – which is in charge of doling out State lands for housing, agriculture and development – was once a big one in the PNC youth arm – the Young Socialist Movement (YSM). Nothing is wrong with that…we all make mistakes in our youth!! But did he have to be so POLITICAL in his response to the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition about lands being handed out like “sweetie” to PNC friends, family and cronies??
Jeez! He sounded worse than Trump – who gets red in the face like a beet at leaks about his going-on with staff and jumps up and down in rage! He was more like the Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland”, who was in a furious passion and went stamping about and shouting “Off with his head!” or “Off with her head!” about once in a minute. Imagine in this day and age of openness and transparency, when most countries have introduced “whistleblower” legislation, Benn threatened to deal “condignly” with members of his staff who had revealed details of the leases Jagdeo spoke about!! This threat of “condign” treatment was a pet phrase Burnham used when dealing with his “enemies”.
The US Whistleblower Protection Act declares unambiguously: “Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation for disclosure of information which the employee or applicant reasonably believes evidences a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety,” The key term is “the employee REASONABLY believes”, for instance, as in this case, there was an “abuse of authority”.
Why should info on leases of land owned by the State – on behalf of the people of Guyana – be secret from the people? All leases, as they are being issued, should be listed on the GL&SC’s website for all and sundry to see. We, the people, can then decide whether the bureaucrats who work for us are ACTUALLY working for us, rather than themselves, or some friends in politically high places.
At his press conference, Benn pulled a three-card Monte on Guyanese people. He blithely talked about leases being granted during the PPP years, but then being relinquished on leases being issued during the present regime. But duh!! If say, a 2004 lease for land in Canje is relinquished…what does that have to do with a NEW lease in 2019 for another (strategic!) piece of land at Bohemia??
Benn is obviously familiar with another favourite phrase of Burnham: there are many ways to skin a cat!!
…in higher places
Back in late 2016, the Government created a Department of Environment (DoE) and Advisor on Climate Change within the Ministry of the Presidency to coordinate all programmes to ensure the “Green State” promised by Granger, would be delivered. It wasn’t confined to painting Government buildings green!! In giving testimony to the COI on African ancestral land, the head pointed out:
“Land is featured prominently in environmental protection in the country. The EPA’s mandate spans the management, conservation and protection of all environmental media which includes land.” As such, she declared the EPA has limited, direct authority over private and public land-use decisions. This bureaucrat, therefore, is privy to all inquiries from whatever sources on activities that would involve the use of land – even in the setting up of a corporate office.
Such information has strategic value since armed with such prior knowledge, say of an Oil Services Facility or an Electricity Generating Plant using gas from the FPSO’s offshore being contemplated, investors can make windfall profits by leasing identified lands.
Did pillow talk guide the Bohemia lease?
…and enforcing Court decisions
Benn also glossed over the award of some large swathes of Pomeroon land; claiming that the Courts had ordered this after the previous Government had seized them.
Is he enforcing the terms that caused the seizure in the first place?