Ramkarran hits back at ‘If you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones!’

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran.
Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran.
Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran.

See below Ralph Ramkarran’s response to an opinion piece captioned “If you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones!” carried in a daily newspaper and by this online news service.

It alleged that I refused a cabinet post in 1992 and instead demanded legal work for my firm. I was never offered a cabinet post in 1992 and there was no flood of legal business to my firm. My firm, a well known corporate and commercial law firm, was retained by only one major government owned business as a client shortly after 1992, the then National Bank of Industry and Commerce (NBIC), which was soon after privatized. There were some smaller clients with very little legal business. Imagine a government headed by Cheddi Jagan allowing open nepotism of the sort I am accused of without being given short shrift!

For some perspective, it should be known that the income derived from legal business handled by my firm for government agencies amounts at the highest to no more than ten percent of our overall income. Only three of the government agencies which are clients of my firm have regular legal business. There are dozens of government agencies which have lawyers other than ourselves.

It was alleged that I refused a cabinet post in 1997 because a Minister’s salary was too low. After Mrs. Jagan decided to accept nomination as the presidential candidate, having first nominated me and being persuaded by Roger Luncheon and others to accept the nomination instead, she suggested that I should be a member of a team of three with herself and Sam Hinds. I was to be designated her successor in case she could not continue for any reason.

I readily accepted the offer but said that I could not accept a cabinet post because at that time my two children were in university and law school overseas. I offered to accept a position as an unpaid adviser who would attend cabinet meetings and so become familiar with government issues, if it was considered that such was necessay. It was insisted that I must take a cabinet post. Had I taken the post, I would not have been financially able on a government salary to maintain my children in school and would have had to terminate their education. I explained all of this in some detail but the executive of the PPP was unmoved. I made the choice that any parent would have made. I declined to sacrifice my children’s education, sacrificing instead the possibility of my succeeding Mrs. Jagan to the presidency. Mr. Jagdeo was elevated in my place.

This is well known to then Executive members of the PPP. However, the narrative of my declining the offer of the presidency because of money was invented by the PPP, because of the negative, public, questions which arose when I was omitted from any role. I don’t know of anyone who would decline a potential presidential nomination because of money. The issue of my children’s education has been conveniently omitted in the narrative. Several prominent persons were aware of these facts and my dilemma at the time including Miles Fitzpatrick, my former senior partner, Joey King, and Henry Jeffrey

An old story is repeated alleging some sort of fraud in the estate of Yusuf Mongroo, a case in which the deceased’s Will is challenged by his daughter, Sherene Mongroo, who along with her siblings lived overseas while her deceased father lived for about forty years in Guyana, where she never visited him. His estate was given to his Guyanese reputed wife and Guyanese business manager. None of the close friends of Mongroo, who knew him for the decades he was in Guyana, including the beneficiaries of his estate, were ever told by Mongroo that he had children. They only became aware of this when they turned up for his funeral.

In the vast majority of cases involving a Will there are allegations of fraud. This case is no different except that the range of the accused include every single person who had has something to do with this matter. I have been accused and so have the lawyer who made the Will, the doctors who witnessed it, Yusuf Mongroo’s Barbados lawyer, bankers in Barbados and others in the Cayman Islands. It should be known that the case has been heard and decision is being awaited. No evidence of anyone committing actual fraud has been given in the case and no other court case or criminal charges alleging any other kind of fraud anywhere inside or outside of Guyana has been filed, as one would have expected, if the allegation had any merit. – Ralph Ramkarran, SC