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Imran was a complex man. He had a wicked sense of humour. He was unafraid to push boundaries if he felt it necessary, an information junkie (as he referred to himself), foodie, avid reader, prolific writer, passionate debater, poet, analytical thinker, a true friend, and more. He had no problem disagreeing with you on any issue, and if his views evolved on the given issue, he would acknowledge this, and apologise if it necessary.
His death, the result of complications from COVID-19, threw an aspect of his private life into the public. A private life he might not take objection to sharing if it would create better understanding of him and could benefit society. Imran, like many others, had and are being let down by a system that is failing all and sundry.
It is a (political) system created to confuse and deflect from the poorly managed pandemic. Rather than seeking to correct the mismanagement, the government has turned to the most insidious form of public relations (PR) which is being fueled, knowingly or unknowingly, by the media. Instead of media(ting) between the governed and government and helping the governed to hold their government accountable for guaranteeing their safety and health, sections of the media are actively promoting the public naming and shaming, stigmatising the infected.
The debased PR serves as deterrence, suggesting others could be afraid to get tested and seek treatment if infected. This runs the risk of increasing spread. Guyanese, at the instigation of their government, are cannibalising each other. Glad to condemn. To castigate.
When news broke Imran contracted the virus and was hospitalised in the ICU of the COVID-19 Hospital, at Linlendaal, ECD, people were quick to enquire if he was vaccinated. Some wanted to know because they genuinely care given the positive recovery rate for the vaccinated. Others wanted to know to weaponise his illness in furtherance of the sickening and divisive politics in the hope of deflecting from the crisis in management. Imran, albeit of prominence, was in distress and needed all our support not the condemnation of any.
People are ignoring fear and vaccination hesitancy are high in Guyana, paralysing some or influencing others to defer taking the vaccine. It cannot be ignored that the Sputnik V vaccine, which is the government’s preferred choice, is still to be approved by the World Health Organisation. Yet the government is insisting Guyanese take this vaccine, some of which have been questionably sourced, and more than 70,000 people still to receive their second dose.
People have ignored the Chief Medical Officer issuing a criteria list of persons to be exempted from taking the vaccine. Leader of the Opposition, Joe Harmon, announced Imran was given medical advice against taking the vaccine. This revelation may be too late because the cannibalisation has already taken place, including a rancid editorial about Imran in the Guyana Chronicle.
As Guyanese insult and demean each other, influenced by the insidious PR, the government escapes responsibility to properly manage a pandemic now in its second year. Reactions suggest we are living in an emotionally sick society, that we find no shame or pain discussing or ridiculing the other even in moments of life and death situations. Individually and collectively, we are losing our soul, our humanity, and allowing ourselves to be pushed by a government that is repeatedly dropping the ball.
Guyanese are ignoring President Irfaan Ali is failing to do what President Joe Biden, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, and Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness are doing. These leaders are in the communities, talking with their citizens to address their fears and concerns about the vaccine. They are delivering leadership at a critical time and when most needed.
Like puppets Guyanese are being pulled on a string to ignore that at least 14 percent of those who died from complications were either fully or partially vaccinated. This figure should raise red flags. Where is the curiosity from society, the media, to ask the government probing questions? Are we too busy going for each other’s throat, failing to recognise in the instigated divisive game we have all become prisoners of a plan that sees us as pebbles in the sand, to walk on or kick out of the way? Questions like these would have troubled Imran, the critical analyst he was.
He would have wanted accountability and transparency from his government. He was part of APNU+AFC government that created the National COVID-19 Task Force, which was headed by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, and invited other stakeholders, including then Opposition PPP/C to participate, albeit the invitation was rejected. Imran did not see COVID-19 as a one-man, group or party affair, nor did he promote people not taking vaccines. He was a true Guyanese with love for all and wanted the involvement of all in beating the virus.
Imran was a lovely human being. As he laid gasping for breath, dying reportedly from a heart attack, it can’t help but wonder if the overwhelmed and unappreciated nurses and doctors in the ICU heard his cry for help, saw him in agony and couldn’t help, or he just slipped away from us. He would have been critical of the care he received, not to destroy but look for ways to make the working and patient atmosphere better. Imran would be missed. Very much.
The late Dr. Victor Forsythe, head of the Communications Department, University of Guyana, no doubt must have seen him if he has a class over yonder. Imran would have already entered in his inimitable style, challenging the lectures, pushing the boundaries, and enquiring about the usefulness of Forsythe’s ‘Barrel Model’ which served him well as Director, Department of Public Information; Public Relations Officer, West Indies Cricket Board; and every event his communications skills were needed. Deceased cricketers and fans would be delighted by his wealth of knowledge of the sport. The authors he loved and had questions for will surely meet him.
To his mother, Tammy (his wife who is wished a speedy recovery) and other family members, thank you for sharing this beautiful person with us. Imran was a friend and true patriot. He has gone too soon but would want those alive to probe, to challenge, and hold leaders accountable to do better for us. To his media fraternity, “It is Time” -the campaign theme he gave the APNU+AFC for the 2015 election- to break free from government’s insidious PR strategy, to disdain regurgitating talking points, and follow the investigative route. No one is safe, vaccinated or not, in this miasmic situation.
May Imran’s soul rest in peace.