GUYANA: Vice Media’s Interview with Vice President Jagdeo – Stabroek News Editorial

By February 12, 2022

Stabroek News

To see our Vice President fumbling for words the other evening in his interview with VICE Media was not pretty.

His typical press conference begins with a two-hour monologue touching on every issue, many of which are outside his chief cook and bottle washer portfolio. Local media operators tolerate these because most of them are genuinely intimidated by Mr Jagdeo who has described them as vultures, barred one senior reporter from his press conferences and pulled state advertisements from this newspaper.

So one might not feel too sorry for him when he  was led to believe for over an hour that the award winning journalist, Isobel Yeung, was genuinely interested in his opinions on oil, the environment and his grand vision for Guyana with a mandatory sprinkling of attacks on opposition individuals she had likely never heard of.         

Then we reach about 1.07 in, Yeung puts the hammer down. First by asking directly if ”within your government do you accept bribes?” Mr Jagdeo replied “No. I don’t.”

Yueng: We have spoken to a number of Chinese business people in Guyana who said you do accept bribes. And they said in fact it’s the only way to get business done is to bribe you.…The real big boss is the vice-president and everything is under the table, the whole country is like this.”

Jagdeo parried saying he would not respond to anonymous sources.

Yeung: Okay so let’s talk about this specific individual, what is your relationship with Mr. Su Zhirong?

Jagdeo: Oh Su? My relationship? Nothing, he is a tenant in my place yes.

Yeung: And he is a friend of yours?

Jagdeo: Yes, am yes, yes he is a friend of ours, his father was here from many years ago.

Yeung: He lives next door to you.

Jagdeo: Yes

Yeung: He is able to arrange meetings and catch ups with you at any point of the day, he claims…

Jagdeo: As a friend, yes.

Interviewer: He claims that he has a very close relationship with you, he is able to get any deal done.

Jagdeo: Well, I don’t know if that…

JAGDEO POSTS INTERVIEW

A week later a clearly rattled Mr Jagdeo decided to post the interview in its entirety to try and preempt the feature VICE will likely air in a few months. All will then be revealed but even now the interview has raised troubling questions that need answering.

First we should accept that VICE Media came to Guyana armed with some information/evidence  about, or provided by, Mr Su and wanted to confront Mr Jagdeo. It is not likely they simply said let’s go fishing for a news story in Guyana and happened to stumble upon Mr Su. Nor is it likely they made this all up. This is further reinforced by the fact that they are said to have only interviewed one other government official, made a brief visit to Mahdia prior to the Jagdeo interview and left shortly after. What additional information they have we do not know (although Yeung did say she had seen contracts provided by Su) and it is somewhat disturbing that an American news outlet has caused such a commotion in a politically fragile country with these accusations and left the nation to twist in the wind. VICE has been criticised for producing documentaries that give unbalanced and sensationalist portrayals that perpetuate stereotypes of third world countries. They have in the past had a kind of macho, edgy vibe that is not helpful for serious journalism.

WHO IS Mr. Mr. Su Zhirong?

But to the matter in hand, who exactly is Mr Su and what is his relationship to Mr Jagdeo? Well in the latter’s own words Mr Su is a close friend and a tenant of Mr Jagdeo living in a home right next door in Pradoville II, that it is understood was up to a year ago on the market for a considerable sum.

Mr Su has appeared in several newspaper articles over the years as a representative of various com-panies although it is not clear exactly how successful they have been and who might be the other investors. These include Hi Tech Construction which received land for real estate on the East Bank prior to 2015 suggesting Mr Su has access and is well integrated into what is for outsiders a rather opaque  Chinese Guyanese business network.

For his part Mr Jagdeo has lashed out at almost everyone, even raising the failure of opposition MPs to file documents with the Integrity Commission. This is a clumsy red herring looking to divert the focus from what is a direct allegation of corruption against him. He has also accused VICE of playing gotcha journalism and wanting “to make a developing country leader look corrupt”.

And he has hinted that this is some conspiracy driven by US policy to combat the influence of China in Guyana and Latin America. In the process he threw his Foreign Minister and Cabinet colleague under the bus by claiming the Taiwan office idea was Mr Todd’s alone and that he only learned about it in the newspapers. This is some savage humiliation but one doubts Mr Todd would resign on principle. And of course Mr Jagdeo couldn’t resist that old PPP/C chestnut “the last time we were caught up in a cold war type of atmosphere,” it led to the CIA and the British Secret Service intervening which led “to a dictatorship for 28 years.”

There is no doubt that America is concerned about China’s presence here. They have said as much. The influential writer Dr Evan Ellis, research professor of Latin American Studies at the U.S. Army War College, has made it almost his life’s work to document the China threat. Then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his visit here in September 2020, stated “We’ve watched the Chinese Communist Party invest in countries, and it all seems great at the front end and then it all comes falling down when the political costs connected to that becomes clear,”

And US Ambassador Lynch has touched on concerns about procurement practices here. But it is farfetched to suggest VICE Media was part of some devious plan. And even if they were it would not undermine any evidence that shows clear corruption.

CHINESE EMBASSY DEFENDS JAGDEO

For its part the Chinese Embassy was quick to defend its companies and come to Mr Jagdeo’s rescue, asserting, “The Chinese side highly appre-ciates that the Government of Guyana upholds the one-China principle and keeps developing cordial relations with China…..Chinese companies operating in Guyana are following the local laws, international practices, and market rules, participating in big projects through open and fair competitions, which is beyond reproach.”

But allegations of corruption involving Chinese construction firms operating worldwide abound including a “consulting fee”, a percentage of the contract value that is said to be paid to politicians, even from the opposition, to secure contracts and dampen any controversy. We would be naive to think it hasn’t happened here. It is also hard to fathom the supposed motivation for Mr Su to claim his role as a middleman and how VICE spoke to him or otherwise.  Mr Su has since denied making such claims and is engaging his lawyers. He has not denied speaking to VICE Media.

These remain serious allegations at a time when large infrastructure projects are being considered. For example we have learnt that negotiations with the Chinese bidder for the new Demerara Harbour Bridge have broken down over financing terms even as Minister Edghill admitted the costs will go up. This controversy only complicates matters.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • Joel Miller  On 02/13/2022 at 3:34 am

    Isobel Young and America are hypocrites!

    But you forgot to mention that all the money stolen both by foreign and third world Leaders are all kept in American banks and Europeans knew very well that those money are stolen.

    So, you can see that a European-Chinese American woman saying that Jagdeo is corrupt is like pot calling kettle black. The person who kept a stolen money for the thief is just as guilty. as the person who did the stealing.

  • kamtanblog  On 02/13/2022 at 6:25 am

    Nice one
    Chinese are corrupt
    Guyanese are corrupt
    Are Americans not also corrupt ?

    Capitalism is a corrupt system
    Communism also
    Capitalism with a conscience way forward ….not driven by greed !

    My take

    K UK

  • Dennis Albert  On 02/13/2022 at 2:41 pm

    If you check on Isabel’s Twitter account, some nasty and racist comments are being posted on her Tweets. The PPP can stoop so low, but criticising them leads to jail time and police harassment. Double standards.
    I hope that the Congress in America start seizing assets of these PPP tycoons. No wonder the youth are resorting to robberies and drugs trafficking. Hard and honest work doesn’t pay off in Guyana. Corruption does.

  • theonly  On 02/15/2022 at 4:11 pm

    Totally agree with you. BTW the youths are just going after their 50% that K N said that they should demand, cant wait for my people to be back in power. (drill and pump baby).

  • Jaipersaud  On 02/20/2022 at 5:50 am

    We should be very careful of which foreigner we let in our country now that we have oil. We have to ban these foreigners who aim to cause strife in our country. The journalist was lucky that Bharrat Jagdeo didn’t send security to remove her and send her back to America.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: