President Granger’s swift and decisive action, tersely announced, to terminate the appointment of Mr. Brian Tiwari as a government adviser on business, dramatized an event that has titillated the political classes and has energized the media. It is clear that the President allows his officials enough latitude to get on with the job but that he also expects them as politicians, or holding political offices, to be sensitive to political currents so that they know when to consult or seek clearance for decisions which may have political ramifications. No one should now doubt that President Granger is prepared to boldly intervene, if and when he considers it necessary.
Brian Tiwari abandoned traditional methods and began to overreach since 1992. It made him into an enormously wealthy man. Refining basic skills of negotiation and transforming the magician’s mantra of ‘the more you watch the less you see’ into business strategies that won vast variations of already vast contracts, high prices for suddenly scarce quarry products, buying and selling land at enormous profit, acquiring and selling mining properties at even greater profit, BK International has grown into a diverse conglomerate.
With the adviser on business at its helm, the conglomerate’s is likely to have had an expectation of another ‘great leap forward.’ But this reversal will be seen as only a modest setback. Mr. Tiwari will view this event as a ‘blip’ much as Darren Sammy saw the defeat of the West Indies by Afghanistan as a ‘blip’ and then roared back into life against India. BK, as he is popularly known, with his endless capacity for resourcefulness, may go below the radar for a while and deploy the other half of the magician’s mantra, ‘the less you watch the better for me,’ as he plots his return, more nuanced this time around.
Brian Tiwari ignored already existing signs and believed that the same strategies he adopted in the past would work in changing times. He transitioned from the past administration to the current, hauling with him what is rumoured to be a gargantuan gift. Many did not believe its quantum when they heard of it. Mr. Tiwari is known as a man of unfailing generosity, solicited and unsolicited, but he was not thought to be that generous! But maybe it was true and Mr. Tiwari felt that it was enough to earn him the ‘honorific.’ But he miscalculated.
Not so long ago the articulate Dr. David Hinds captured the sensitive political mood of APNU+AFC supporters when he criticized talk about the Government offering employment to former PPP ministers. As a prominent beneficiary of contracts, licences, land and mines from the previous administration, Brian Tiwari did not understand the need to exercise caution. He had been in the headlines before and ought to have anticipated that his appointment, when discovered, would trigger emphasis on his business dealings in the past administration, already exposed. The lucrative land deal with Bai Shan Ling, facilitated by a sale of land to his company by the past government, was a prime target, as the whole of China has now become for BK International.
‘Transitioning’ in Guyana’s politics has had a long political history. It has been painful for parties in opposition and delightful for parties in office. In the 28 years of PNC rule the PPP was virtually denuded of a large part of its leadership, which transitioned to the PNC. Both Burnham and the PNC gloated while the PPP cringed at every loss. While from 1992 a modest reversal took place, it is the PNC and its succeeding entities, PNCR, PNCR1G and now APNU, which have had the greater advantage. In this era the PPP got Odinga Lumumba, while APNU got Brian Tiwari.
The current APNU+AFC administration is clearly happy to continue the policy of transitioning and to receive the support of former PPP adherents. In the past, however, many PPP members who had ‘crossed over’ were happy with the modest jobs that were offered. This is no longer the situation. With a much larger private sector to provide jobs, ‘transitionists’ are not of the ilk of ‘comrades’ of the past, claiming to be committed to ideological certainties as propounded by the PPP, while surreptitiously reaching out to the PNC, then transitioning over.
Today’s transitionists are men of worth, which was acquired over the past twenty years, looking to become men of more worth, to be acquired over the next twenty. Their ideological persuasion is not political, but financial. At the same time APNU is a coalition, which forms a government within another coalition, with supporters who have both economic and political expectations, operating in an open media environment. Of necessity APNU now sees transitionists differently, hence President Granger’s decision.
In other political systems, including in the region, political parties alternate in office so that their supporters have a fair chance of not being unduly excluded. Our broken political system encourages political parties to believe in a zero sum game where, once a party obtains office, it remains for twenty plus years. This system encourages the culture of transitioning which is a negative phenomenon. The President’s rejection of the offering of political rewards to transitionists, however ‘honorific,’ is a small step forward.