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At midnight there was spontaneous eruption of firecrackers and fireworks, then an eerie calm, as we welcomed the New Year. The morning appeared dim and somber, as if it were draped in sorrow over the death from Covid of 164 Guyanese during 2020.
Thick gray clouds let down drizzles, beating back rays of light, in a game of hide-and-seek between rain and sun. The day serenely surrendered to rain clouds, sporadic showers; and by evening, there were warnings of expected strong winds, high tides and otherwise stormy weather.
Those warnings became props for a theatrical portrayal of over-expectations by some conspiracy believers that the new year would come like a tsunami of bleach that could wash away the pandemic.
Though the science is telling us that Covid is not here to stay forever, this dreaded invisible enemy will still wrap us in a straitjacket for quite some time. But we have learned to live, work and play within the restrictions, and how to get by as best as we could. The new year is just another milestone in our journey of life, and 2021 is inviting us to be the best we can!
As a cricketing nation, Guyanese welcomed the opening of this new innings by the government with a soft bonus ball of a $25,000 cash grant or “top-up” for all public servants, employees in public corporations, including sugar workers and pensioners.
I suppose that the bulk of excess cash was already there, sitting in the unspent voted provisions for employment costs. It was earmarked as wages for the estimated 1,000 State employees who were politically sacked last year from their jobs.
CARPET OF CASH
Call it tear-soaked money or not, the stimulus package was both thoughtful and timely; and to his credit the President, like the fabled Ali Baba, literally entered the new year on a carpet of cash! We must not, as he said in his new year’s address, be a rich country with poor people. All he needed to say more often, is “open, sesame!”
The cash alone, however, will not beat the virus. We need tough enforcement of existing restriction measures, including mandatory use of masks. We also have to cross-check our timely requisition of adequate supplies of Covid vaccines, training of staff to administer them earliest, and secure storage facilities and safe countrywide distribution of the vaccines.
At the same time the Guyanese people must not resign to hopelessness. Help is on its way as nine countries are currently involved in developing some 200 types of vaccines, including Cuba which is in the final stages of testing two of these candidates.
For many it has been a dreadful leap year which one person described as “kalyug” – the dark time. But we cannot ride into this new year on an avalanche of negative feelings. I would rather be re-invigorated by the positive nationalism that I embraced in 1961 – sixty years ago – when I first joined the freedom struggle. It has been a long and sometimes bumpy ride, but we have much to remember, and much more to celebrate.
With Sita at my side these 50 years of our marriage this year, it was also enjoyable. In the lyrics of Hank Locklin’s “Anna”:
Thank you Sita, “my childhood sweetheart…
for the wonders, for the joy you caused my life…
for our four children”; and for your garden
where birds on our trees “are singing to us the last words of summertime”.