Free laptop project an election gimmick

A U.S. Peace Corp volunteer who the Bharrat Jagdeo administration paid a whooping $100,000 per year to help administer a free laptop distribution project to needy citizens has accused Jagdeo’s office of undertaking the project largely as a gimmick ahead of general elections due by the fall and not as a genuine effort to improve access to cyberspace for its less fortunate citizens.

Judson Lohmeyer who has since quit his job at Jagdeo’s office and is stationed in the Philippines said in a radio interview with former New York-based journalist and political activist Mark Benschop at the weekend that the project is unlikely to come off the ground anytime soon and is being dangled to an unsuspecting public as a viable program.

To bolster his argument, Lohmeyer says that he spent two full years working at Jagdeo’s office on the idea and still not much has been achieved. He is adamant that it is a ploy to win votes and influence people in time for general elections scheduled for later this year.

The 140 machines distributed at a ceremony on the lower east coast earlier this year was paid for as a thank you inducement by a Chinese company, which has been identified to lay a 350-mile fiber optic cable from Brazil to the city in recent months.

The American also dropped a more than subtle hint that he does not want to say too much because he is aware of the need to remain “clear and safe” from the long arms of government even though he is now stationed in the Far East.

Anticipating that the former volunteer would go public and expose the project as a fraud, Jagdeo’s office attacked him preemptively accusing him of attempting to blackmail authorities because of a row over superannuation benefits linked to his resignation late last year.

Opposition parties have accused the government of engaging in corrupt activities on the project giving conflicting prices for a single unit laptop from $1,300 each to $295 following intense probing in parliament recently. In all, 90,000 laptops are to be distributed to needy families whenever the exercise gets going.

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